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)

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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.

 

Comfort Food and the Happy God

Elle, my trusty steed that glides up hill and down.

Elle, my trusty steed that glides up hill and down.

“This is bad,” my husband was troubled by his jaw and by the end of the week he could not eat. Visions of an impending life of smoothies and soup discouraged him. A storm was rolling in fast. I hopped on Elle, my trusty electric bike that glides uphill and down, and raced to the food store.  Seven dollars later and a hasty trip back with thunder and lightning nipping at my wheels, I set to work on some Potato Pancakes. It was time for some comfort food.

Potato pancakes may not be high on the list of the nutritarian diet but they do squeak by, at least on my accounting. Take a large potato, peel it, chop it into squares, and then square each piece again until it is about the size of two thumbs. No need to chop them too small. Put them in a pot of boiling water until the pieces are soft. Drain and mash the potato squares until smooth and creamy with the help of a  little pat or two of butter and 1/8th cup of cream (okay, broth and a nut butter since butter and cream are not part of the nutritarian diet, but hubby needed a little pampering). Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool and then form into patties. These are called pancakes, but the size of the patty is more like the size and shape of a hamburger.  Fry onions, garlic, and mushrooms  in a pan with just a bit of canola oil. Add the potato pancakes and cook until golden brown.

Often times we think our God is a little grumpy, kind of like we are when troubled by something that just won’t leave us alone. We think we need to comfort Him with some great act of kindness or service that will appease the grumpy god. Actually, our God is a happy god. His son has redeemed his children back to him. God longs for us to be with Him eternally. When we come to Him in prayer, He does not think, “Is she really going to go over all this again: boring!,” No, instead He comforts us every time. His joy over us fills the heavens. His love for us is so great that there is nothing that can separate us from Him. He has an open-door-policy and when we walk into His office, He says, “Welcome into my joy.”

Jesus Christ is God’s great comfort food. Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, the Passover lamb, the bread of life, the water for all who are thirsty, stands beside His father and forever intervenes on our behalf. Our health issues and moments of despair are like fiery darts that burn our conscious and make us think God does not care, but God has revealed to us through the person of Jesus Christ how much He does love us, and the life of Christ reminds us that this life is troublesome. It is through our love of Christ that we gain compassion for each other and that we try to comfort those who suffer.

God is not bored by our constant and repetitive prayers for others and ourselves, or our whining and groaning over health issues or other misfortunes. Though we have gratitude for any blessings in this life, we are not glorified by them, not by money, power, or fitness. Instead, these can become distractions to seeking God’s glory that is in Jesus Christ who is mighty to save. He can bring joy in the midst of suffering that is beyond our understanding. His power is revealed in our weakness. This life is like birthing pains. We have many troubles but they our only temporary. We have many setbacks, but they will be overcome. Does anyone who is born brag about how easily he came into this world? No, that pain was necessary only for birth and is forgotten in the joy of life. Does anyone who is born not have trouble? No, but in the next life the pains of this world will be forgotten in the joy that God has chosen us to be His very own children for all eternity.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelations 21:4

 

A Main Meal Salad and Side Salad Religion

Salad as the main dish

Salad as the main dish

“Make the salad,” my mother ordered.  I chopped up iceberg lettuce and added tomatoes, sliced a hard-boiled egg and added onions.  One summer night, my father’s friend added the task of making blue cheese dressing . “Start with a half cup of sour cream, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, juice from half of a lemon, a few shakes of  garlic powder, and crumbled blue cheese.” My father loved the dressing so much that from then on I had to make it every night along with the salad. I can make this salad and dressing with my eyes closed.

This little iceberg salad was not the main dish, only a side, and for many years it was the only salad I ever ate. My mother made dinner for us every night under the same scenario: a protein (meat, chicken or fish), a starch (potatoes or corn), a vegetable, and the salad. I continued this tradition well into my adult years for my own family until my daughter decided to become a vegetarian.

Salads are probably the easiest meal to make for a vegetarian. Nowadays, most people who plan to feed a large group will include a salad for those who prefer not to eat the common meat and potatoes meals. At many of these gatherings I still run into the old-fashioned iceberg lettuce salad which seems so dreary to me now I can barely eat it. There are tons of salad recipes on the Internet, but my favorite is the cancer-fighting one I often make for myself.

I mix a couple types of greens: kale, arugula, endive, romaine, collards, or dandelion greens. In a dab of oil or a little broth, I fry onions and corn. In  another frying pan I cook mushrooms in Bragg’s Amino Acids sauce or low salt soy sauce. This gives the mushrooms a distinct flavor. When these cool, I mix them in with the greens. I add chopped broccoli (or broccoli sprouts) and cauliflower, peppers , sliced avocado, sliced carrots, black beans, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. If you like some sweets in your salad, chopped figs or dates go nicely with the seeds. Served with a whole grain bread, this salad is a hardy meal in itself. It also contains the food groups my mother lived by: a protein (beans and seeds), a starch (corn and whole grain bread), a vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, and mushrooms), and a salad (all the greens listed). The salad dressing often is what makes a salad, but this one is so full of flavor it barely needs a dressing. Try a tablespoon of humus with it or one of the nut butter dressing on my recipe page for added protein.

We often grow up with a standard recipe for religion, a sort of side salad that never changes. Later, we begin to ask questions and doubt what our elders taught us. Many of us give up on religion entirely finding it to be ostracizing, oppressive, and dogmatic. Like my dreary iceberg lettuce salad, religion can seem boring with the same set of instructions to follow. As we walk away from faith, religion can seem purposeless and even more in line with fantasy than reality, but a walk away from faith is a lonely walk.

The best way to return to faith is to read about the person of Jesus Christ who is well-described in the New Testament.  His life, the concepts he taught, his actions, and the stories he told can nurture our faith back to Him. The life of Jesus can illuminate our thinking and give us discernment about what is real and what is not. The life of Christ is an amazing story and filled with encouraging news about God’s true plan for us that can vanquish our worries, our loneliness, and our sense of dread and fear.

Reading what Jesus said and did is often puzzling, strange, and shocking. The friends of Jesus, his disciples, are always so surprised by Jesus. They don’t understand him and are often asking him questions about what Jesus said or did. Then, after Jesus dies, these same guys are completely different. They know, they understand, they discern, and they create the very thing Jesus wanted: a group of people who believe in him, have faith in what he promised, and who worship Him through adoration and prayer. What happened to make these very same friends of Jesus that were so bewildered during his lifetime, such experts later?

I believe God happened. He revealed His truth after the sacrificial death of Christ. He shined His light in the hearts of  men and women and gave his greatest gift, God’s love finally understood and accepted. He continues to shine light into the darkness of our thoughts and fill us with His own love through the writings in the New Testament. The New Testament is written by the friends of Jesus, those known as his disciples who followed him around while he was alive, and worshiped him and preached about him after Jesus died. The New Testament writings give us a chance to sit at the feet of Jesus’ friends and listen to them tell about Jesus. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John all have stories about Jesus that they wrote down and are ours now to read. The other writings in the New Testament are actual letters these men wrote along with Paul’s letters, a man who persecuted the friends of Jesus until God shined his light and truth into his heart in a most miraculous way.  These writings about Christ bring light into our dark world even today, and give us faith in His promise of a new world to come where Jesus will be ruler of all people.  The Bible is God’s word and it never comes back to us void because it is not mere words we read, but power. So, don’t settle for a side salad religion, dig into the word of God and find a real meal.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard ? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  …So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.– Romans 10:14-17

Habits that Hurt and A God that Heals

My girlfriend gave me this Chia Pudding recipe.

Chia Pudding

“I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. There’s something inside me that keeps me going back to the same old bad foods, the same old over-eating, the same old indulgences. I hate it and how will I stop?” A bad habit can live inside us like a bad friend who shows up at our doorstep each day. We groan, “How can I get rid of this guy?”

Fats, sugar, and salt are addictive and if we keep going back to eating food that is not good for us, we know that we are in the habit of it. To break it, replace it with good food that is really tasty. The key word is “tasty”. Laying out a bowl of celery and carrot sticks is not going to kick it unless you are a rabbit.

Eating well takes time and planning. We have to really get into it and prepare for those times when we want to indulge ourselves. For me, this seems to be every weekend. I can get through the week without much of a problem. I am busy working and have evening plans but when the weekend comes, I want to relax and enjoy my time off. Eating delicious fun food is a big part of what I enjoy over the weekend.

Popcorn has always been my go-to snack food but there are lots of other snack foods that won’t break the diet bank. Use lettuce or collard leaves to hold chopped vegetables mixed with good fats like guacamole and seasoned with herbs and spices, or rice and beans topped with a spicy sauce.  Collard greens can be split and rolled up like cigars. Lettuce leaves are more like cups.

If you like soda, try replacing it with a fruit smoothie made with juiced watermelon. If you are into cakes and pies, indulge in this  delicious chia pudding recipe my girlfriend gave me. Take a small custard cup and line the bottom with banana slices. Sprinkle about three tablespoons of chia seeds over the bananas, add a few raisins, and fill it with almond milk. Let it set over night to thicken, then stir, and enjoy. Frozen peeled bananas is another great treat for the sweet tooth in you. Peel and cut into thick slices to freeze them. Eat them like candy.

Taking a little time and effort to plan healthy snacks can be fun, a lot more fun than grabbing the nearest bag of taste-sensation foods like chips and dip. Bags of snack foods might be quick and easy but they are made to give your mouth a burst of flavor not nutrition, they easily cause over-eating (“You can’t eat just one,” as they say), and add extra pounds. Eating stuff like this can give you a nighttime stomach ache.

Bad habits need to be dealt with, especially negative habitual thoughts. Thinking the same negative thoughts over and over again can have an effect on our overall well-being. We can be our own worst critics. As my husband often points out, we can think and say things to ourselves that no one else would ever dare say. How cruel we are in our own thoughts. How will we ever break free?

Thank goodness for Jesus Christ! From Him we have the keys to the Kingdom of God that is within us. His promises and the hope he gives in the New Testament is water for the thirsty soul dragged down by the disappointments in life and a mind full of constant criticism. The New Testament is not just words but power for the mind and hope for the heart. He loves us just as we are and He will lead us out of the darkness of our thoughts and into the light of His. Jesus promises us this transformation, and it can happen quickly.

Do you have repeating thoughts that trouble you? Give them to Christ, tell Him what you are thinking. They are only thoughts, not reality. Do you have an image in your mind that frightens or shames you? God has given you an imagination to imagine Him, not these evil things, so show it to Christ and let Him take it from you. It is only an image, it is not real. These thoughts and images are common to most people and are like poisoned arrows flung at us to bring us down. Put up the shield of faith against them. Read Christ’s words of life in the New Testament, and think on His words of love and hope instead.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.–Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:29)

A Green Smoothie with God

Green Smoothie. Easy to make!

Green Smoothie. Easy to make!

“Have you ever had a green smoothie?” I could’ve asked numerous folks in the audience that day, in fact anyone who was laughing at the actress who had just walked on stage with a kale smoothie, a prop to emphasize how differnt she was from “normal”. It wasn’t that funny to me. I thought the girl was smart to choose a kale smoothie over a chocolate milkshake. She was only playing a nerdy character but the truth is a green smoothie, when done right, has it all over a milkshake of any flavor.

First, you will need a blender. The base ingredient is a banana. Bananas make the smoothie sweet and thicken it. If you want your smoothie on the creamy side, the next ingredient is almond milk (or any nut milk). If you like it juicy rather than milky, add coconut water or throw in juicy fruits like oranges or watermelon and add a little water. Next, add some more fruit. Whatever you like, to give it a new taste. I like berries in mine. Some berries can make your green smoothie brown, so add a teaspoon of Matcha powder if you want a really green one. Next, give your smoothie some added nutrients with a tablespoon or more of flaxseed. Add a nut butter (tahini and cashew are great) for protein and healthy fats if you are going for a creamy smoothie. Last, throw in the greens. Kale is terrific but it is kind of tough and unless you have a super-speedy mixer like a Vitamix, you are going to get little kale pieces in your smoothie–not a bad thing really. I prefer swiss chard or spinach, or even a handful of mixed greens in mine. Anything will do though, even romaine. Blend it all together. I like to add a piece of ginger, some turmeric, and a few dashes of pepper for added antioxidant power.

Now, drink it! It is delicious and way better for your health than a milkshake. Here’s why. Bananas have potassium, berries are loaded with antioxidants, flaxseed contains magnesium, and almond milk has more calcium than milk. (Don’t shy away from these nut milks thinking they are only substitutes for the real thing: milk. Not true!) And the green stuff, most of them score 1000 points on the ANDI nutrient scale, the highest score a food can receive for nutrient content. Blending food like this helps your body get more nutrients. A smoothie is a meal, especially the creamy ones with the nut butters in them. If you want it as a dessert, using less almond milk and frozen fruit will render something more solid and cold like ice cream.

The best part of a green smoothie is after you eat one. There’s no holding your stomach with that uncomfortably full feeling. Instead, it energizes you. Your body jumps for joy and you are ready to tackle the day. Fatty cream from a fatty cow is not going to make anyone feel good except a calf. Now energize your spirit. Take a minute to thank God for the bounty of food He provides. Forgo that cut of red meat and if you miss the taste of it, eat it only occasionally or use only a small portion for the flavor. Enjoy the many types of beans and whole grains God gives to us. Don’t settle for milk and sugar, look to His grand variety of fruit and nut milks. Make your main dish at every meal a vegetable dish. The abundance of greens and other vegetables is a testimony to the love God has for us. Enjoy eating healthfully and don’t let anyone who laughs at your green smoothie put you off. You are the smart one, my friend, you have chosen the better way.

Look to your Bible to fill your hunger for spiritual contentment. Savor God’s great promises and the beauty and depth of His love for you that is written in the words of the New Testament and in the Psalms. So many things in this world fill our thoughts with anger, fear, and despair but these are not from God. We rush around checking off the tasks on our list. We imagine awful scenarios and bring ourselves to a point of anxiousness and hopelessness that makes God weep. Much of the sickness, poverty, war, violence and hatred of this world are of our own making; they are not the promises of God. Choose a better way by spending time contemplating God’s words to us because even with these difficulties that abound around us, God is able to reach out and calm our spirit with His excellent love. And lastly, choose the hope for a better life provided by Christ since He is the greatest of God’s gifts to mankind.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing.Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Variety is the Spice of Life and the Joy of the Church

Salads contain a variety of phytonutrients

Salads contain a variety of phytonutrients

“I eat a good breakfast every morning.” She was 92 years old and had eaten healthfully all her life. She earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics that included a study on nutrition. But one morning my mother woke up unable to get out of bed. She felt weak and trembly. “But what do you eat every morning?” The doctor pressed. Mom answered, “Cereal.” At first it had been shredded wheat but the last few years she had switched to Cracklin’ Oat Bran. She rarely ate lunch now since she woke late in the morning and could easily make it through to dinner. “You need to eat more of a variety of foods. If you eat the same foods every week, you are not getting that variety and so your body is not getting all the vitamins it needs. And you need to eat all your meals.” Beside her an IV steadily dripped needed vitamins and nutrients into her arm.

Getting into a pattern of eating the same foods every day can work against a person’s health. Many of us often eat the same foods at breakfast and lunch but if we can switch it up a bit, a variety of foods will ensure a larger spectrum of nutrients. Maybe that’s why God planned seasons so that we would be sure to get different foods throughout the year.

God likes a variety. We can see this in creation’s many different plants and animals. Just like eating a variety of foods results in a healthier body, so the church includes a variety of gifted people who, when working together, result in a healthier church. Some people are gifted in discerning the word of God, some in expressing it through music and dance, and still others in extending service to the wider communities around them. In fact, God gives us many gifts throughout our lives so that we may contribute to the health of His church. Gifts of talent from God make our service a pleasure and create a joyful people.

Yesterday a woman in our church got up in front of the congregation to inform us of a service project to make 2000 food packets for the starving children in Africa. As she spoke, I could clearly see her compassion for these people who through her inspiring words no longer seemed so far away, but right beside us in the heart of this service-oriented spokeswoman.  After that, our youth put on a musical show for the church. It was amazing. These kids had memorized large portions of scripture in the dialogue of the play that they never would have done had it been assigned as Sunday school homework. Our two talented music leaders had reached the kids in a way that spread joy throughout the church using music and dance. The church is where God’s gifts are revealed.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.–1 Corinthians 12:4-7