Saturday, August 25, 2012

All Things Edible

My passionate love for all things edible has apparently escalated to a somewhat frightening intensity lately, judging from my husband's skeptical responses to each new dish I force on him and his diminishing ardor when faced with a new sinkful of dirty dishes (three cheers for the world's hottest, and cheerfulest, dishwasher).

I recently signed up for an organic co-op and each week is a fresh challenge in culinary creativity. There's nothing like a boxful of produce that I would never buy at the grocery store (think alfalfa sprouts, artichokes, squash and giant kiwi) to inspire me to new heights. Via a priceless Pinterest tip, I've learned to fill the sink with vinegar water and soak all the dirt, grime and pesticides off for much fresher and longer-lasting produce:

I love grapes, ok?? And when they're on sale for $0.97 a pound I freeze them for provisions in winter. Frozen grapes are a delicious, healthy way to curb my sweet tooth that rears with a vengeance about every half hour.

Freshly washed to-die-for-ness.

Last Friday's produce yielded enough sweet cherries and plums for this Honey Crisp I served to company earlier this week. Can we just talk about how incredible organic fruit tastes?? Best grapes I've ever eaten, and kiwi sweeter than candy. Not to mention that last night's plums looked like glimmering, deep red jewels. I was way too busy entertaining to snap a photo, and it was inexcusable. My...August resolution is to build a custom camera shelf in my kitchen so that my life as a kitchen prima donna does not go undocumented. In other words, this is the last time you'll see mouth-watering recipes unaccompanied by photos actually shot by yours truly.

On to the recipes!

Our company entree was classy Abs Diet Burgers (they are thick, juicy, manly, and incredibly good.) I also tried baked potatoes in the crockpot, first time ever. I wasn't a huge fan. The skins didn't "crisp" like I'd envisioned, they were slightly gummy and bore that mysterious crockpot taste which I masked with loads of sour cream, but in the future I'll stick to the good old oven-with-foil method.

Recently I made these Blueberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies for small group. Clearly, the only thing to say here is please put those in-season blueberries to good use and make these immediately. Totally, utterly divine.

Our weeknight dinners have been increasingly later and pressed for time (think hour+ commutes for the Mister and long workouts to get in shape for when he dies bikes in Moab, Utah with his dad this weekend). The other night I whipped up these Crash Hot Sweet Potatoes (normally Nate wouldn't touch sweet potatoes with a 33-foot pole) to accompany syrupy-with-a-kick Maple-Glazed Chicken. It was like dessert for dinner, and should be illegal.

I had way too much fun experimenting while Nate's friend DJ was here. Both guys belong to the Five-Dinners-They'd-Eat-Forever-And-Be-Happy Club, but unfortunately for Nate he got stuck with a wife who hates making the same thing twice. So we feasted on Pioneer Woman's version of Chicken Parmigiana, French bread dipped in herbed olive oil (H-E-B has a divine Sicilian spice blend), salad and this whopper of a Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie, a la mode. Ever made a cookie in a skillet? Do it. One pan and a giant hunk of deliciousness later, it's the easiest - and one of the tastiest - desserts I've tried.

I apparently have a huge thing for avocados: the smooth, creamy, perfectly succulent gods of summer. I never liked them much before, but one day my senses were awakened and I could not stop eating them. I made two quick, easy and unbelievable avocado dishes this week: Chicken and Avocado Soup using homemade chicken stock, and Avocado Mac 'n Cheese. Two words: holy, and cow.

My favorite dish of the week was a pescetarian spin on Chipotle burrito bowls. That these were a success can only be conveyed by describing a total fish-loather (Nate) requesting a different meal altogether, then skeptically sniffing, eyeing, tasting, eyes-widening, and digging in with gusto. A triumph! Unfortunately for our guests, third-floor apartments are not well ventilated and blackening tilapia in a cast iron skillet produces a veritable cloud of spicy, throat-coating smoke. All the better to anticipate dinner with, my dear. Without further ado, I give you Spicy Fish Taco Bowls. Amen.

And I will leave you with these. Pioneer Woman's desserts never cease to - pardon her French - make my skirt fly up. I brought these Chocolate Mint Brownie Bites to a party, where they scored rave reviews. Chocolate. Mint. Brownie. What's not to love?!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Obsessed with My God

Last weekend Nate and I had the privilege of co-leading a discussion on prayer with a good friend of ours. We honestly didn't contribute much, but at one point a middle-aged woman in the audience commented with tears in her eyes that she had never seen young people so wholly devoted to Christ - that it was "kind of crazy, really." The irony of her statement made me want to laugh out loud - I'm in the middle of reading Francis Chan's Crazy Love and I have honestly never felt more deeply, recklessly in love with Jesus! And the fact that it shines through to a perfect stranger makes me deliriously grateful for God's mercy on and presence in me.

Lately I've struggled with discouragement. I ask big things of God, and when an immediate answer isn't apparent I so easily drift into comparison: "Why is this prayer being answered for that person, and these people encountering God in that way, and it isn't happening right here, right now, for me?" And yet God is so, so kind. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, He is so tangibly there. I am constantly encountering, seeing, and experiencing Him anew.

He has called me to minister to the most wonderful teenage girls on this earth. When we sit in a circle and talk about Jesus, heaven, creation and the Holy Spirit; when their eyes light up with the excitement of one day seeing Jesus face to face, my love for and joy in the Savior grows so exponentially that I want to cry.

He has called me to live the rest of my life married to the kindest, most gifted man I know. When Nate putters around the house singing worship songs, stops me in the middle of whatever I'm doing for an impromptu prayer sesh, asks my forgiveness out of the blue for some seemingly insignificant offense, unconditionally forgives my multitude of offenses, leads small group discussions with grace and wisdom, and gives godly counsel to his friends, my heart cannot contain my thanksgiving at God's lavish blessings on me.

God always answers my prayers; even if it isn't in the timing or way that I imagined. He has been teaching me that I can never assume to know His will about anything. Desires that seem good and biblical must often be sacrificed in light of an even bigger thing that God is doing. Romans 8:26-27 never ceases to astound me with the truth that even my most heartfelt prayers are encompassed by the prayers of Someone infinitely greater who, unlike me, knows and prays in perfect accordance with God's will: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words...according to the will of God."

What an overwhelming truth! In the moment of my deepest doubt and confusion, when words won't even formulate, prayers that perfectly coincide with my desires and God's perfect will are constantly being lifted up for me. How can I not walk through life in free and joyful confidence that I am being led down God's intricately designed, flawlessly formed path for me? Like Francis Chan talks about, I want my life to be so filled with God that the world has no choice but to see Him in me. When life is good, may I model the person "who enjoys blessing, but who is still totally obsessed with God." When life is hard, may I magnify the One who brings both joys and sorrows to increase my growth and trust in Him. "The point of my life is to point to Him."