Cauliflower Prayers

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower

“It looks like something out of the sea,” my husband picked up the vegetable displayed on the farmer’s stand. I had seen romanesco cauliflower only once before when my daughter brought one home from Mom’s Market. “Yeah, like coral.” The green spiral cone shapes of the romanesco cauliflower make it beautiful to look at as well as eat.

Even though my cauliflower mash recipe completely smashes out the fractal beauty of the vegetable, at least it keeps its pretty Chartreuse color. It’s delicious. In fact, I think it will be on my Thanksgiving Day table. Here’s how you cook it: cut off a whole head of cauliflower buds. Throw away the core center. Dump the buds in a steamer with sliced onions or shallots and cook till soft. (Use your own judgement on how much onion or shallots you want–I put in just one shallot bulb.) Mash it up with a potato masher and some roasted garlic cloves (I added about four cloves), about an 1/8th cup of cashew butter, and 1/4 C coconut manna. That simple and incredibly delicious.

Cauliflower is a pretty bland vegetable but boy can it fight. It is a powerhouse of vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals. Sometimes our prayers for others can seem pretty bland, too. Not every prayer is a spirit-filled literary masterpiece but  they sure do have a lot of power. Praying for people is a good way of loving them from afar. Many times people’s names just pop into my thoughts while I am praying, and later on I find that the impulse to pray for that person was a timely one. So many times this has happened to me, that if I think of someone who I haven’t thought of for a long time, I take it as clue to pray for them. I think many of the people I have known throughout my life will be surprised in heaven when they find out how often I have prayed for them. In my own opinion, I think that God knows who has feelings of true love for whom, and that He uses the powerful love we feel for those special people in our lives to bring blessings to them. In this way we can truly say, no love is lost.

I have a friend who was actually awakened from her sleep with the urge to pray for her son! The next morning she got news of his perilous situation and that he had thankfully, survived it. We don’t have to say a lot of words, or even any words. All we have to do is lift the person up to God, thanking Christ for His amazing love and for that love to surround him/her. How great and grand is our glorious God who counts the prayers of people like us worthy to be received by Him. We are honored and privileged above all to be included in His loving blessings to other people. Nothing makes me feel more like a child of God than to hear that my bland cauliflower prayers have been received and answered by the almighty God. God takes our simple prayers and adds the beauty and flavors of His blessings to pour out upon those for whom we have prayed.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. — James 5:16(b)

Butternut Squash and The Beatitudes

Soup blender turns chunky soups into creamy soups.

Soup blender turns chunky soups into creamy soups.

“Well, they both start with the letter B,” my husband suggested the title and gave me the segue I needed. Then he said, “My work here is done,” and left me with a blank page. Sometimes I just need a little push to get started.

Butternut squash is everywhere. The harvest is on and there is nothing more tasty than butternut squash soup. My girlfriend gave me a wonderful recipe that I will share with you. “The secret,” she said and immediately my attention was hers–I love secrets, “is to roast the squash first.” So, I peeled it, chopped it into one inch squares, and sprinkled it with some garam masala and a little extra cinnamon (or whatever you like). I also added an onion and, per my girlfriend’s second secret, an apple.  I roasted all three for about 30-40 minutes until everything was soft, and then I dumped it all into a pot with some chicken broth (or vegetable if you like). I used my handy-dandy soup mixer tool that I just can’t live without to make a smooth and creamy mixture. It was pretty thick, so I added some coconut milk to make it less stewy and more soupy. I heated it all up to just about boiling and then served it with pepper and salt on the table. It was great. The apple gave it a very nice flavor. I used a red apple but my girlfriend suggested that a green one might be best. I will have to try that next time.

Something else that seems to be everywhere these days is breast cancer. October is breast cancer awareness month, so everyone is wearing pink, even our football players. Dr. Fuhrman has a bone to pick with the breast cancer awareness folks. He seems to think that it should be breast cancer prevention, as almost everyone is already “aware” of how the incidents of breast cancer are growing. He says this increase is due to our poor diet and, as you probably know, I agree with him. A high nutrient diet can help prevent breast cancer and many other cancers and diseases as well. He has said this and now the Nutritional Research Foundation is conducting a ten-year test to prove it. You can be part of the test if you are following his diet. The test hopes to prove that a high nutrient diet will indeed prevent breast cancer for many people. Let’s hope that he is right!

This cause and effect way of eating for good health is not new. What is new is all the processed foods. The cause and effect of eating heavily processed foods is poor health. The Beatitudes offer another cause and effect for the health of our spiritual lives. Jesus Christ gave us these blessings in the Sermon on the Mount, which is just another way of saying that he was giving a sermon on a hilltop. This is what He said in the Book of Matthew:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children 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.

The cause and effect of pursuing these divine blessings is the way to happiness. Of course, it is not easy to admit we are spiritually bankrupt without Christ, or to be compassionate, meek, righteous, merciful, pure in heart, peaceful, or courageous enough to stand against the evil in this world as he did, just as it is not easy to stay on Dr. Fuhrman’s diet. But, at least now we know the two secrets to good health and spiritual well-being.

 

Caring for Natural Oils and Natural Prayers

After one year, most oil should be thrown out.

After one year or less most oil, nuts, and seeds should be thrown out.

“What’s that fishy smell?” My friend wrinkled her nose at a whiff from the sunflower seeds. “They look yellow, but they still taste great.” The smell and color of these nuts reveal that they had spoiled but roasting and salting nuts can disguise the sharp rancid flavor.

Natural oils found in nuts, seeds, and whole grains are beneficial antioxidants. However, if left out too long in the air, heat, and sun they can become rancid. These spoiled oils have become oxidized themselves, losing their powerful health benefits. They are pro-inflammatory and carcinogenic even though we do not feel sick after eating them. To prevent foods from becoming rancid, store them in an airtight container and place in a cool and dark place like the refrigerator.

The health benefits of nuts, seeds, and whole grains is well-known but has caused a kitchen full of rancid foods. Because we are accustomed to the long-storage benefits of trans fats and refined foods in the past, these new monounsaturated and polyunsaturated foods are assumed to have the same long storage benefits. They do not.

Rancid oils have a stale, paint-like smell. Buy small containers of oil and store them in the refrigerator. Whole grains and flours also need to be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place like the refrigerator. Breads, crackers, and other whole grain baked foods will not last as long as their refined flour counterparts. Protection from air, light, and heat will slow down the oxidation of all oils. Throw out rancid food. You may lose a few pennies now but you will gain dollars later in good health.

Refined prayers that have been written down and edited can help us in times of need and stress when we are without words. I say the Our Father every day at school, once on Sunday, and sometimes throughout the week in my Holy Yoga exercise. It is the prayer Jesus Christ taught his disciples and one that is highly regarded as a structure for other prayers. Praying the Psalms can be a great comfort because they are filled with emotions that we find hard to express. One of my favorites is Psalm 51 and Psalm 23 is also a popular one, especially at funerals.

Praying a steady stream of heartfelt words can empower the Holy Spirit and bring comfort to us. Being honest in our prayers about our motives and expressing our true feelings can bring discernment and wisdom to our lives. It gives us a chance to give sober judgement to who we are and how much we need our Lord and Savior. We do not need to worry about condemning ourselves with honest prayers as God already knows our hearts and minds. He will lead us into the truth and light. Honest prayers spoken to God in secret are powerful and intimate.

Praying songs can be a way of rejoicing. Even if we are not feeling particularly joyful, songs can comfort us and bring us out of sadness. It is good to have the melody and words of songs in our thoughts throughout the day so that we are continually in prayer.

Prayers said aloud for others is a common practice. Listening to or publicly reciting memorized prayers requires concentration to prevent background thinking. Jesus admonishes long, wordy prayers that have little sincerity and are said aloud for others to think well of us. Singing contemporary music together without a worshipful attitude can seem brash and irreverent. Using King James version words like thee and thou can appear showy to young people and make them think God is some great-grandfather in the sky who has no real interest in their young, complicated lives. Changes in attitude to public prayers and songs come about when the listeners realize that it is not the beat or the old-fashioned word that counts but the sincerity of heart that matters. There are many ways to pray with sincerity and all of them are good.

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Omega 3, 6, and the Alpha and Omega

“So I see that your eggs are produced from grass fed chickens. Does that mean they are omega 3 eggs?” The farmer at our local market’s quizzical look edged with annoyance told me he did not concern himself with the omega content. “Sure they’re grass fed but we supplement with high quality feed or they’d never lay enough eggs.” I pointed to the carton,”Look, it says they are.” He shook his head and glanced at the folks lined up behind me who were anxious to buy more than just a half dozen eggs. “I don’t know anything about the omega. We reuse other folks’ cartons.” I took my half dozen and hoped for the best.

What the farmer at our market had not cared to realize is that the omega 3 content in eggs and meat is two to five times higher if the animal is grass fed, and in better balance with the omega 6 content. Corn and soy meal feed can throw off the beneficial balance of omega 3 and 6 which should be about one-to-one or one-to-two. It is one of the many reasons why some doctors and dietitians recommend omega 3 eggs and grass-fed animal products.

Our diets are high in the inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid but it is not totally due to eating conventional (corn and soy meal fed) meat, chicken, and eggs. The imbalance also comes from other saturated fats and processed oils. Switching from saturated fats like butter and cream to unsaturated ones like olive oil and nut creams is the first step in a healthy diet. There are many oils to choose from: soybean, cottonseed, corn, vegetable (usually a mix of these three), olive, and flax seed oil, just to mention of few. Each of these polyunsaturated oils contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which are necessary for our overall health, but not all oils are equally beneficial. Vegetable oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and soybean oil are all poor choices since they are too high in omega 6 fatty acids. These processed oils are also used in most processed foods because they are so cheap. Consuming high amounts of omega 6 by cooking with these oils and by eating processed foods, can produce inflammation in the body and contribute to all sorts of illnesses: heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and various cancers.

Instead, use oil that is low in omega 6 like canola oil. Canola oil is good for cooking because it can withstand medium-high cooking temperatures. Flax seed (very high in omega 3) and olive oil are good choices for recipes that do not call for cooking, for example, most salad dressings. In addition, eat foods high in omega 3 like fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, and caviar), nuts and seeds, and leafy green vegetables, to improve the body’s overall intake of omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.

Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet and is now used to mean “the last in a series.” God used it in a pairing with the first letter of the Greek alphabet, the Alpha. He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” He said it three different times in Revelations. The first is his proclamation that he is who he is, was, and will be. The second is that he is the beginning and the end, and then Jesus finally says that he is the first and the last.

Between the alpha and the omega are all the other letters that in various combinations form the finite words of scripture about God. People from every age have spent quite a deal of time contemplating these words and trying to illuminate and understand the true God. Jesus is determined by St. John to have embodied the very word of God. His actions here on earth, the words he said, the stories he told, and the incredible miracles he did have been recorded and meditated upon for incalculable amounts of time by those trying to discern who God is and what He wants from us. Who can count the number of books written about scripture, either to teach, preach, or encourage? Despite the small amount of scripture that we do have, we have certainly gotten a lot out of it.

However, God’s most important message is fully revealed in the life of Jesus Christ and the scripture we do have about him is sufficient to bring anyone to faith. Jesus is the extraordinary work of the Alpha and the Omega. Nothing is known of God that he has not chosen to make known through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the first and last expert on himself and on us, his creatures who live humbly in grace thanks be to Jesus Christ and who live for his everlasting glory.

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were everyone of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25

A Little Oil and A Little Faith

“I never fry with oil. I use broth or a little water.” My girlfriend recently declared war against her bathroom scale and her growing wardrobe, growing in size that is, from an 8 to a 12. She had it with the disappointing reflection in her mirror, with her decreasing health and declining feeling of wellbeing, and she was sharing with me one of her secrets to her success: no more oil.

Imagine a tablespoon of oil. Now imagine a tablespoon of oil in a fry pan and compare it to the amount we really use. Imagine a tablespoon of salad dressing. Now compare that to the amount we use on our salads. Most likely what we actually use is more like two tablespoons, maybe even three. Oil is calorie dense and one of the most likely contributors to our increasing weight gain. Get rid of the oil and lose weight, gain health, and feel better.

Cuisines across all nations use oil. I recently experimented with a cookie recipe using teff flour, a North African cereal grain, and a half a cup of oil, among other ingredients. I just wanted the benefit of the calcium in the teff flour so I left out the sugar but I never considered the oil. The recipe turned out nicely and I started eating it for breakfast. After a few days, I noticed I had gained weight and, knowing the only thing I changed in my diet was the teff flour recipe, I realized that the oil in it was the most likely culprit.

Like salt, oil can enhance the flavors in a recipe. Oil is also one of the tools used to enhance the flavors in processed foods. The more oil, the more taste and the more fat. Dr. Furhman has a neat little diagram of a stomach filled with 400 calories of oil compared with 400 calories of greens and vegetables. The difference is striking as the stomach is quite empty on 400 calories of oil, while quite full with 400 calories of vegetables. The point is that we are still hungry after eating 400 calories of oil because our stomach are still empty, while they are completely full after eating 400 calories of greens and vegetables.

Oil is rich and eating fried or oil-laden foods causes us to overeat. Too much of this type of eating can sicken us, give us stomach aches, and over a period of a lifetime, create some pretty serious illnesses for our heart and arteries. Oil is fat and though some are more healthful than others, a little oil goes a long way. Think one tablespoon; not three.

A little faith can go a long way too. Faith, like oil, enhances the flavors in life. But how do we begin to have faith in our scientific world? People often scoff at religion for its fairytale-like stories of miracles and heaven where angels sing in the clouds. How do we take the historical Jesus seriously? Just wondering if he really existed has stumped some folks. However, virtually all historians agree that he did exist. The historical events in the New Testament line up with other historical texts, and references to Jesus can be found in texts other than the Bible. Making the assumption that Jesus actually lived is not much of a leap. A lot of experts agree that he did walk the earth once upon a time.

But what a walk. Accounts of Jesus in the Bible have him walking on water, feeding thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread and two fish, and even raising people from the dead. And healing? It seems like that’s all Jesus did wherever he went. Is believing all that accredited to faith?

I’d say faith begins with believing that Jesus lived and then died specifically as a sacrifice for sinful man. That’s not much of a leap either since crucifixion in Roman times was a common punishment for crimes, and in Jesus’ case, for blasphemy–claiming to be God.

So imagine Jesus who was a good man by anyone’s standards, letting himself be punished for crimes he did not commit, the crime of hatred toward him, and declaring right up to the end that he was dying for the very folks who were killing him. Now imagine Jesus embodied the soul of God who willingly endured a physically cruel and ultimately fatal punishment to save us from an equally cruel and fatal spiritual punishment so that He could love us forever, even while we were hating him. Going from the first image to the second is the first leap of faith, a fairly large one because it requires the acknowledgement that we are prone to evil and deserve punishment.

The belief that the historical death of Jesus met all the requirements for God’s justice against the evil in this world will flavor our lives with joy and comfort because we can approach God in peace and speak to Him as our own dear Father. Acting out that tiny bit of faith does enormous things to our lives, but getting there requires a good look in the mirror.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:10-11

Soda Love and God’s Love

Soda Stream lets you choose how much sugar to put in your soda.

Soda Stream lets you choose how much sugar to put in your soda.

“Can I get you something to drink?” The flight attendant had her hand at the ready on a can of soda and I felt like a puppy at feeding time. What had I gotten myself into? I was returning from a week at Honduras Outreach, a church-related mission ranch in rural Honduras that had served me soda at every meal in every flavor of my childhood, my favorites being cream and orange. It occurred to me I was addicted to soda after only a week of drinking it. Yikes! I asked the flight attendant for water and drown my sorrows.

My second grade class will tell you there’s nothing wrong with a soda every once in a while and I have to agree. For me, too many rules take away too many pleasures in life, and if soda is something you’ve grown to love, perhaps the new “home sodas” are an answer.

I have Soda Stream. A CO2 cylinder squirts compressed air into a bottle of water I screw into the machine. It allows me to make club soda at home and eliminates the environmental problem of buying plastic bottles of sparkling water. It comes with soda syrup I can add if I want soda–they have all flavors and you can add a little or none at all :). The serving size contains only 8 grams of sugar compared to 20+ grams in the store-bought brands, and does not contain high fructose syrup. The process is very easy and quick and when a cylinder runs out, I can exchange it for a full one. Not a bad deal for this little puppy.

Although drinking soda every day is not ideal, the power of addiction to it can make us want to give up on diets. But making soda at home is at least better than store-bought sodas. The same is true with many habits and weaknesses in life, we may not be strong enough to eliminate them fully but reducing the power for harm is a good strategy.

Religion can be the same way. Guilt over repetitive sins, a big mistake kind of sin, or weaknesses can make us want to turn away from God, to give up, or just make us plain sad all the time. Christ, who is the constant and final sacrifice for all our sins past, present, and future, can reduce the guilt and sadness we find when we realize we are not perfect. Because Christ has opened the door to God and given us freedom from sin, we have the power to worship God with joy and thanksgiving instead of fear of retaliation for what we’ve done. And this joy is constant, it is not a one-time deal. God’s grace goes on and on and never stops. When we can come to God as a sinner and know that He still loves us and always will, then we have found Him, the Christ, the one who loves us just as we are.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Revelation 3:20

Teff Loves You and So Does God

Teff“Have you heard of teff?” I asked my brother-in-law. He’s one of my favorite foodies. I can always count on Joe to serve up something I’ve never tasted before. “It’s a grain from Africa that has lots of calcium.”

Teff is new to me but is actually an ancient grain that has been around for thousands of years. It’s a food-hottie of late not only because one serving provides ten percent of our daily needs for calcium, 7 percent for protein, and 14 percent for iron, but it is naturally gluten free. For someone on a wheat-free diet, teff is real find.

Teff is versatile too. It comes as a whole grain that can be cooked as a hot breakfast or added to stews and breads. As a flour it can be used for almost anything: veggie burgers, pancakes, cookies, breads, muffins, etc. It is often coupled with cinnamon and maple sugar to give it a nutty sweet taste. One drawback is the price. It is a few dollars more than our more familiar grains and flours, but the expense is worth it.

Our bodies love healthy foods and once we begin to eat more healthfully, it is easy to tell this. We feel energized, full but not bloated, and the extra pounds start pouring off. It is easy to lose extra weight by making a diet of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. When we first begin eating like this our vision of what it can do for us and how much better we can feel is limited by our lack of experience. However, the way we eat is a habit and habits can be changed. The better we feel after a healthful meal often compels us to make our next meal a healthful one, too. Concentrate less on giving up unhealthy foods and more on adding healthful foods into our meals. Is it hard to give up soda? Try drinking more fruit smoothies instead of denying all sodas. Is it hard to give up chips and snack food? Eat more beans which are much more satisfying and the hunger for snack food will diminish.

God loves us in much the same way. It is hard to begin trusting God because we lack experience and our realization of God’s love for us is so small. Even when we read the wonderful promises and hope for the future written in scripture, we skim right over it and concentrate more on the do’s and don’ts. Like diet rules, the do’s and don’ts are easier for us to grasp a hold of and control. We are more comfortable with structure like this and at the end of the day we can judge our successes.

Unfortunately, perfection is the goal of the do’s and don’ts and sets us up as a failure because we rarely achieve it. Try putting more God into your day just as you put more vegetables into it. Simply spending time with God will open our eyes to the amazing love He has for us. It is God’s love that we feel when we pray to Him and which compels us to spend more and more time with Him. After a while, we begin to cherish His presence in our lives and because we love Him, we begin to seek ways to please Him. We will never achieve perfection, not in our spiritual lives or in our physical lives, but we will achieve a transformation that will lead us to a greater vision of both.

[I pray] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:18-19