Tag Archives: Eating

Experiencing Texas Skillet – Blind Poetry Poem

The prompt today at dVerse Poets Pub Meeting at the Bar is “The Blind Poet,” which means we were to write a poem using any or all of the senses except sight. I immediately thought of food and all the smells, sounds, and tastes that go with it.

Experiencing Texas Skillet

The aroma of hamburger frying
with onion, a little sweet pepper.
I hear his key in the lock, the creaky hinge
and he says, “It smells like heaven.”

The news drones on from the living room
The electric can opener grinds,
opening beans, tomatoes, corn
Ingredients for our favorite dish

“Dinner’s ready!” Plates clink,
Texas Skillet Dinner is piled high
topped with cheese, sour cream,
and for dairy-free me, avocado

Did I mention chili powder,
chipotle, and cumin to taste
Spicy taste – why it’s “Texas”
with crunchy corn chips on the side

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest,
and let this Texas Skillet Dinner
to us be blessed,” we say in unison
Then we eat, and it’s heaven.

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Orzo Pasta Salad for Recipe Friday

It has been just over a year since I posted my last recipe. Early last year I had to give up dairy and have really been trying to avoid gluten as well. The combination has been very challenging and has left me not really feeling like posting recipes. My focus has been on modifying my old favorites to make them dairy free.

But this past weekend we had a party with all my family over and I made a gluten-free pasta salad that was a huge hit, even with the people who don’t care about eating gluten-free. I told my nieces that I would post the recipe and send them the link. So Recipe Friday—with a new focus on dairy-free and gluten-free—is back.

Gluten-Free Orzo Pasta Salad

Ingredients

2 cups Pappardelles Gluten-Free Italian Pesto Blend Orzo
1 cup fresh peas
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
¾ to 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
¾ to 1 cup shredded carrots
½ to ¾ cup Newman’s Own Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 tsp summer savory
Salt

Directions

Boil pasta for 14 minutes. Strain and rinse in cold water. Refrigerate to cool.

Shell 1 lb of fresh shelling peas to yield approximately 1 cup peas. Rinse and make sure all stems are removed. Drain artichoke heart quarters and cut into 3 or 4 pieces each. Cut sun-dried tomatoes and shredded carrots into small pieces. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill and serve.

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Thankful for Small Blessings

Okay, this is going to be a strange little post about something that happened to me last week. I was going to post it last Friday since it is somewhat food related, but I was traveling and just didn’t have time.

On Wednesday of last week I left work early to go home and change so I could get to Shepherd’s Door in time for my church’s service project there. We were going to be making my Texas Skillet Dinner for 40 women and children, and I was in charge of bringing the avocados and the spices. My list of things to do before I hit the road for Shepherd’s Door was pretty short: change clothes, mix spices in a zip lock bag, and stop at Safeway for a latte and avocados.

Somehow, in spite of the brevity of my to-do list, I managed to forget the spices. I realized it about halfway to the shelter. It was too late to turn back to home and still be on time, but you really can’t make Texas Skillet without the southwest spices.

I decided to stop somewhere on N.E. Halsey Street, towards the end of my trip, to pick up the essentials, even though I had no idea what stores I would pass. I found a Fred Meyer, parked my car, and went in. I headed straight to the spice aisle. There I found the chili powder, marjoram, and oregano that I needed, but no chipotle pepper.

Then, to my delight, I spied a spice I love and have been unable to find at any of the stores near me in months: Spice Islands Rosemary Garlic that comes in a grinder bottle. I love this spice mix on so many things, especially chicken on the Traeger. I had tried just putting rosemary in an empty grinder bottle but it wasn’t the same. I was so excited I bought three bottles right then and there.

So you might be asking: “What is the point of this story? What lesson did I learn?” Well, here is what I took away from this experience.

Sometimes, when we take the time to care about others, such as by wanting them to have the right spices in the dinner we are making them, God chooses to bless us in ways we never thought of.

When I realized that I had forgotten the spices, I could have simply decided to use whatever they had available for spices at Shepherd’s Door, which may not have included chili powder (the most essential spice for this dish). Instead, I went out of my way in an unfamiliar neighborhood to get the right spices. It never occurred to me that I might find this other spice that I’ve been searching for these past 6 months. But God chose to bless me by bringing me right to it.

I suppose I could just attribute this to coincidence, and many people do attribute such blessings to coincidence. I choose to thank God for this small but wonderful blessing.

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Overcoming Gluttony

I wrote last week about a book my sister-in-law Pam gave me called Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC by Frederick Buechner. It’s a little dictionary of sorts in which Buechner looks at various words from a Christian perspective. As I’ve been reading through I’ve noted some of the definitions that interested me or made me think with an eye towards eventually writing a blog post on one or more of them.

Buechner defines Gluttony as follows: “A glutton is one who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.” Wishful Thinking, pg. 35.

I think this is a very apt definition. I know that for years I have eaten, especially unhealthy foods like chips and candy, when I am bored, stressed, or angry. In each of these instances, I had a spiritual problem that I was trying to fix with food. Or I was just trying to ignore the spiritual problem and hoped that eating would make me feel better. It seldom did.

Even though I was often aware of what I was doing, my efforts to stop this behavior were generally unsuccessful. I knew that what I really needed to do when boredom, stress, or anger plagued me was to stop and talk to God about it, and to seek His help for my spiritual struggle.

But I think eating unhealthy food often can cloud one’s judgment, leading to more of the same.

But recently I discovered, thanks to my doctor, that I am allergic to dairy and quite sensitive to wheat products. I have had to give up both and the positive effects on my physical health have been awesome. Now that I feel better in general, it is easier to think more clearly when boredom or stress elicit a desire to eat junk food when I am not hungry. It has changed my outlook on food in general. My mind is clearer and it is easier to remember where the source of my strength to overcome boredom and stress lies, and that is with my Savior.

Just today I had placed in front of me a number of sweet treats that in the past I would have eaten out of boredom and habit. But I was able to resist them all, thanks to the self-control of the Holy Spirit.

I confess that when I am upset or angry I can still be found eating right out of a family sized bag of potato chips, but I have at least dealt with the boredom and stress issue. I am, after all, still a work in process and I am “confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

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Jorge’s Party Salsa for Recipe Friday

Last weekend we were camping with a bunch of family, some of whom just came out for the day and others who stayed the night at the campground.

On Saturday night I was on for making my Texas Skillet Dinner for everyone and we bought enough ingredients for a triple batch. That’s a lot of skillet dinner!

So when Jorge and Carrie showed up with a huge bowl of salsa in the early afternoon I was worried no one would be hungry for dinner. I was reminded by my sister-in-law that they weren’t eating because they were hungry but because there was food. She was right. Even though all the salsa was eaten, my triple batch of skillet dinner was also pretty much gone by the end of dinner.

The best part is that I got the salsa recipe from Jorge along with his permission to post it here for you all. This was some of the most delicious chunky salsa I’ve ever eaten. So here it is (with the name I came up with).

Jorge’s Party Salsa

Ingredients:

8 large avocados
10 medium tomatoes
1 red onion
1 sweet pepper (optional)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
5 jalapeño peppers, seeded
4 limes
Salt and cumin to taste

Directions:

Finely chop onion, sweet pepper, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers. Place in a 6 quart bowl. Squeeze juice from limes into the bowl. Chop tomatoes. Add chopped tomatoes without all the juice to the other ingredients. Chop avocados and add to other ingredients. Sprinkle salt and cumin to taste. Stir all ingredients lightly to combine. Serve with corn chips.

Tip for avocados: To cut avocados into chunks, slice all the way around to divide avocado in half and pull apart. Insert the tip of the knife in the center of the pit and pull it out. Score each avocado half down to the skin in both directions, then run knife between the edge of the skin and the flesh to remove the chunks. By cutting them this way you avoid getting avocado mush all over the cutting board.

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Filling the Void

Yesterday a group from my church went to a local women’s shelter to cook and serve dinner for the residents. The facility, called Shepherd’s Door, provides more than just shelter for the women and children who live there. They provide life skills training, education, grief counseling, and a safe place for the first time in their lives. As volunteers, my church group gave a nutritious and delicious dinner to the residents, but we also showed them the love of Christ.

But most important, Shepherd’s door provides these women and children with the one thing that will fill the void in their hearts—Jesus Christ.

A funny thing happened on my way to Shepherd’s Door. As I sat at the gas station down the street from my house, I turned on the GPS in my phone and set the navigation to take me to the facility. I had been there before, just last weekend, with my friend from church but I knew the shorter route would be via a different freeway and I wanted a little navigation help for the last part of the trip.

For some reason, the GPS couldn’t quite figure out where I was. When I was leaving the gas station it told me to turn right on 6th, but that would have taken me two blocks further than I needed to go. Since I know my own neighborhood I ignored the navigation directions and hoped it would figure out where I was and get straightened out by the time I got to the east side of Portland. But it never did. As I drove down the main street that Shepherd’s Door is on, my navigation system kept telling me to turn left on a street I had recently passed and then turn right onto the street I was already on. It kept recalculating the route and telling me to again turn left, go several blocks, and then turn right onto the street I was on. I finally turned it off because by this time I recognized the area and knew where I needed to turn.

If I had not known where I was going, I could have really gotten lost. And I was not too far from some neighborhoods I would not want to have been lost in. I might have had a very hard time finding my way back out of such places.

Thinking about this later, I realized that this experience was a perfect example of the importance of what the staff at Shepherd’s Door teaches the residents. The directions and messages we hear in life are often like the directions I was getting from my phone’s navigation system—just plain wrong. But if we don’t know what the truth is, then we might become lost trying to follow these wrong directions. We will fill the void with misinformation and lies.

The women who come to Shepherd’s Door have heard a lot of wrong directions—lies about who they are and how worthless they are—and without the truth of God’s love and mercy to keep them from getting lost they don’t have much of a chance. They have filled the void in their hearts with anything they think can protect them from being hurt again.

But Shepherd’s Door shows them that God loves them and wants the best for them, that they do have worth and importance in this world, and that they can have a better life walking in the grace of Christ. The staff and volunteers work together to show the residents what life can be like when we fill the void in our hearts with Jesus and His love.

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Three Beans Baked for Recipe Friday

Last Sunday we had an awesome picnic at church, which was coupled with an opportunity to sign up for a group service project at one of our local homeless and food shelters. Since it’s a Lutheran church it was, of course, a potluck picnic. I know when going to a potluck that I should plan on being able to try a bunch of different things brought by everyone else, but I’m not very good at that kind of surprise. I like to bring something to a potluck that I know will be sufficient for my dinner even if I don’t find anything else there that I like. (That never really happens, mind you, but I’m always afraid it will.)

For this particular potluck I decided to bring baked beans, but I didn’t want them to be just ordinary baked beans. This is the recipe I came up with, and based on how quickly they disappeared they were a definite hit and I’ll be making them again.

Three Beans Baked

Ingredients:

1 28 oz can Bush’s Honey Baked Beans
1 15 oz can black beans
1 15 oz can pinto beans
3 slices pre-cooked bacon
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup ketchup
1-2 tsps Aardvark Habanero hot sauce

Directions:

Pour Bush’s baked beans into a 9 inch square baking dish. Rinse black beans and pinto beans, and add to baked beans, stirring to combine. Cut bacon into small pieces and add to beans. Add brown sugar, ketchup, and hot sauce. Stir to combine.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes at 350° oven. Serve hot.

To transport to a picnic, cover with aluminum foil (heavy-duty or double thickness). Wrap in a dish towel and place in a cloth carrying bag.

Note about bacon: We buy Hormel pre-cooked bacon from Costco, the kind you can microwave. This is what I used and it works better than uncooked bacon because you don’t have to worry about it being done enough in the beans. You could also pre-cook regular bacon yourself.

Note about hot sauce: Aardvark is a local Portland company, but the link above will take you to a web site where you can buy it online. We actually just got a bottle of this hot sauce given to us by the grocery clerk at our local Whole Foods as a sample. I suppose any Habanero or other hot sauce would work just as well (but don’t tell the Aardvark I said that).

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Grilled Corn on the Cob for Recipe Friday

It’s finally corn on the cob season. It’s early in the season, but there is corn on the cob available nonetheless. I bought some at the vegetable stand that I pass on the way home from church.

For several years I’ve talked about grilling corn on the cob on my Traeger, but we have always ended up deciding just to boil it instead. “We know it’s good boiled,” we’d always say. But this week I decided it was time to finally try grilling it. It turned out pretty good, and I bet it will be even better later in the year when the corn is sweeter.

I forgot to take pictures, but wanted to share the recipe anyway.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Ingredients:

Corn on the cob
Olive oil or melted butter
Salt

Directions:

Peel husks of the corn down, leaving it attached at the bottom of the cob. Remove all the corn silk and rinse the ears. Rub each ear of corn with olive oil or melted butter, and sprinkle with salt. Pull the husks back up over the corn cobs. Wrap the cobs in heavy aluminum foil, adding ¼ to ½ cup of water to the packet. Place packet on the Traeger (or other grill) at 350° and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from grill, open packet, and carefully remove husks from hot corn cobs. I actually used kitchen scissors to cut the husks away.

Serve with additional butter, if desired. Enjoy with your other favorite grilled items.

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Taco Burgers for Recipe Friday

The other night I was planning to make tacos for dinner, but it was such a beautiful night and was hot in the kitchen so I didn’t want to cook in the kitchen. Yet I had a hankering for tacos. On my way driving home I had this idea for Taco Burgers. This recipe allowed me to use up the hamburger buns I already had and also satisfy my taco craving. So I stopped at the store for an avocado, cheese, and some fresh hamburger (because you can’t make hamburger patties with previously frozen burger – they will fall apart).

Of course, now I still have the taco shells that I bought over the weekend in the cupboard so we’ll have to have tacos soon, but these Taco Burgers were so good we will definitely be having them again.

We made these on the Traeger, but you could make them on any barbecue grill. Each of us assembled our burgers a bit differently, so I’ve included several pictures below. Not one of us complained – because these were delicious!

Taco Burgers
Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs ground beef
1 pouch Frontera Skillet Sauce
2 large sweet peppers
1 medium sweet onion
chipotle pepper seasoning
olive oil
1 avocado
Pace Picante salsa
cheese slices (pepper jack or provolone)
hamburger buns

Directions:

Pre-heat Traeger (or other grill) to 350°. Slice sweet peppers into thin strips. Slice onion into thin strips. Spray a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum with non-stick spray. Place pepper and onion slices in the middle of the aluminum, sprinkle with chipotle pepper seasoning, and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Close up aluminum packet and place on the grill.

Mix together ground beef and Frontera Taco Skillet Sauce. Divide meat into desired number of patties (I made 5) and press into hamburger shape.

Place on the grill and cook for 10 minutes. Flip burgers and cook for 10 minutes more or until desired doneness.

Slice avocado. Assemble burgers as either closed sandwiches or open-faced.

My son doesn’t like peppers, onions, and avocados, so he assembled his as closed sandwiches (yes, he had 2) with the burger, pepper jack cheese on one and provolone on the other, Miracle Whip, ketchup, and barbecue sauce.

My husband assembled one closed sandwich and one open-faced with the burger, pepper jack cheese on one and provolone on the other, Miracle Whip, avocado slices, cooked peppers and onions, and salsa.

I assembled mine open-faced with the burger, avocado, cooked peppers and onions, and salsa — no cheese, of course, but it didn’t need it.

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Red Beans and Rice for Recipe Friday

Driving home from work the other night I was thinking about what I was going to make it to dinner. I knew we were going to have leftover chicken drumsticks and pork chops that we’d made on the Traeger earlier in the week. But what to have with it?

Then an idea came to me: red beans and rice. I know you can buy rice mixes for red beans and rice, but I have discovered that rice mixes tend to have milk in them and the red beans tend to be dried and not very many of them.

So this is the recipe I came up with when I got home. It turned out pretty good and was a nice complement to the leftovers.

Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups long grain white rice
1 tsp olive oil
2 ½ cups water
¼ cup chopped onion
1 can kidney beans
1 tsp dried chipotle pepper
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Rinse and drain beans. Put all ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Taste test to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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