November 19, 2011

Leaves Falling

This is a little poem I wrote whilst (I just wanted to use that word) sitting by the Reedy River Falls in Greenville, South Carolina last Friday.  I was taken with the beauty of the season and seeking the comfort of my heavenly Father, the River of Living Water.  There He met with me...

Leaves Falling

Leaves falling
Revealing beauty
Shedding crimson
Golden yellow
Fiery orange
Crunching under my feet

Leaves falling
Revealing beauty
Dying colors
Tumbling down
Laid to rest
For a long, cold winter

I am falling
Revealing beauty
Stained crimson cross
Dying to myself
Tumbling down
Laid to rest 
In His arms
For a long, cold winter
Awaiting spring

November 10, 2011

Sunday Night Pot Roast

As a child growing up in my house, a typical Sunday went like this: get up just in time to rush around the house getting ready to leave for church, pile into the mini-van for the short drive to church, come home to a delicious home-cooked meal (thanks to mom, of course), and fend for ourselves for dinner.  The smorgasbord of crackers, cheese, veggies, dip, and what have you were fondly referred to as “doodads”.  I’m not sure who came up with this name, as I now equate "doodads" more with knick-knacks than food, but I do remember looking forward to these “snacky” Sunday night meals.  (Now that I think about it, maybe it came from these.  Thanks for humoring me and my nostalgia for discontinued snack mix).

On the other side of the spectrum is what I made this past Sunday, a warm, homey beef pot roast; the epitome of comfort food.  This is a classic, fool-proof recipe to turn an ordinary Sunday night into something special.  It just takes a little bit of planning and preparation.  It also requires a long, slow simmer to tenderize the beef and vegetables and allow the flavors to meld.  The result is a rich harmony of flavors that taste as good as warm, fuzzy slippers on a winter morning.  I must also admit that this recipe reinforces my belief that meat always tastes infinitely more delicious when it has had a long bath in some wine.  You don’t need to use your best red for this recipe, just make sure it has some body.  However, if you don’t have a half empty bottle lying around, it’s the perfect excuse to pick up a bottle of your favorite red wine.

I was going to write my own recipe, but I usually just combine several recipes I find in a cookbook or on the internet.  The best part about this "one pot wonder" is that it is truly hard to mess it up.  You cannot cheat on the time though.  It really does take several hours on the stove or in the oven or about eight hours if you use a slow cooker.  Here is one by Emeril Lagasse that I keep going back to. 

If you want to, you can trim down the cooking time by cutting the meat into chucks first to make a stew rather than cooking the roast whole. Here’s a classic Julia Child recipe from one of my all-time favorite magazines, Food & Wine.  I hope they never go out of print like Gourmet did a couple of years ago.

(I apologize that I don't have a photo this time.  Must work on keeping a camera on-hand in the kitchen).  This is an invitation to send me photos of your pot roast if you decide to try one of these recipes or make up your own.  Happy cooking! And as Julia would say, bon appetit!

November 5, 2011

In need of grace

Lord, I need your grace to be here in this moment, not knowing what this day holds and being open to whatever you might choose in your sovereignty to bring me through.  I rejoice in knowing that you have made me your child and have placed your hands upon me[1] to lead me through dark valleys[2] and to set my feet high upon a rock[3].  Nothing can ever separate me from your love[4], O Lord, so I lift my eyes to you[5] today and rest in your powerful hands[6].  Give me eyes to see with greater clarity the joy that was set before you to endure the cross[7] that I may learn to endure suffering[8] and count it all joy[9].  Teach me perseverance in the face of adversity[10].  Help me to embrace my pain and give thanks[11] for unending peace[12] and eternal reward[13].  Train my fingers for warfare[14] even as I write these words and recall your truths[15].  Strengthen my heart, I pray, as I wait upon you[16] so that I will have the strength to love others and not spend all of my energy focused on myself and my circumstances.  Your presence and your love are enough for me.  Sustain me with Grace who gave His life for me, hope for the long journey, and faith to persist with fear and trembling[17] in the midst of my weakness. 

Take heart, dear one, He has overcome the world[18]!

[1] Ps. 139:5
[2] Ps. 23:4
[3] Ps. 27:5
[4] Rom. 8: 35-39
[5] Ps. 121:1
[6] Is. 40:29
[7] Heb. 12:2
[8] Heb. 10:36, 12:1, Rev. 14:12
[9] Jam. 1:2
[10] Rom. 5:3-5
[11] I Thes. 5:18
[12] Eze. 37:26
[13] Matt. 5:12
[14] Ps. 144:1
[15] Ps. 119:15
[16] Ps. 27:14
[17] Phil. 2:12
[18] John 16:33, I John 5:4

November 3, 2011

Melissa's Cherry Almond Scones

This post was originally written October 30, 2011.

I just baked up some close-to-perfect scones as a special birthday treat to myself.  (I’ve been celebrating my birthday for a little over a week now, but you only turn 32 once, right?)  It was my excuse to indulge yet a bit more.  And what’s better than baking something warm and scrumptious on a lazy Sunday afternoon?  Truth be told, I had a one-year-old hanging on my legs and fussing to be picked up for the better part of the 20 minutes it takes to make this recipe from start to finish, but it was still enjoyable. 

I adapted this recipe from Molly Wizenberg’s book “A Homemade Life.”  If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet, run, don’t walk, to your local bookstore or here to pick up a copy.  Her mouth-watering yet down-to-earth recipes can also be found on her blog, Orangette.  I decided to leave out the lemon zest and crystallized ginger and concoct my own dried cherry and almond combo.  It just seemed right for the fall season and I thought it would be a delicious pairing of flavors.

I must say for a first attempt, these turned out quite well.  I love how the half-and-half carmelizes the tops of the scones.  I forgot to do it this time, but I would also add a sprinkling of raw (demerara or turbinado) sugar after you brush the tops with half and half before baking.

The result is gnarly and crumbly on the outside and wonderfully flaky and moist on the inside.  The dried cherries give a lovely sweet, tart bite and the almonds add some crunch.  Spread with a little real butter, and it’s heaven!  Have them with a cup of coffee or milk in the morning for breakfast or in the afternoon with tea like the Brits.  Daydreams of a return trip to London…

Cherry Almond Scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt (kosher is best)
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (you could also try almond extract)
½ cup dried cherries (pitted) coarsely chopped
½ cup sliced raw almonds
½ cup half-and-half, plus 2 tablespoons for glazing
1 large egg
2 tablespoons demerara or raw sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cut the cold butter into small pieces and dump into the flour mixture.  Working quickly with your hands, pinch the butter into small pieces with the tips of your fingers until the flour is crumbly in texture.  Do not work the butter too much or it will start to melt!  The pieces of butter should be about pea-sized. 
Add the sugar, cherries, and almonds and stir a couple of times to mix. 
In a small bowl, pour the ½ cup half-and-half and crack the egg into the bowl.  Add the vanilla extract. Beat with a fork to combine.  Gradually pour the liquid into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon.  Stir just until it starts to hold together and form a ball. 
Start working with your hands and knead the dough just a tiny bit on a lightly floured surface to form a ball.  With the palm of your hand, gentle press the dough into an approximately 8-inch circle about 1 inch thick.  Don’t worry about making the circle perfect.  Just do this quickly so you don’t overwork the dough.  Cut the circle into 8 or 10 wedges depending on how big you want the scones to be.
Transfer the wedges to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.  Pour the additional 2 tablespoons of half-and-half into a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat to glaze.  Sprinkle the raw or demerara sugar on top.
Bake the scones for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and serve almost immediately.  They are best warm with a thin smear of butter. 

Molly Wizenberg recommends storing them in an airtight container if you plan to eat them in a day or two.  She suggests sealing them in a heavy plastic bag or container and freezing them for longer storage.  In either case, definitely follow her advice and reheat them briefly in a 300°F oven.  They are best served warm!

Hello! Thanks for reading my very first post...

This is my first venture into the world of blogging.  Rather than try to describe the reasons I decided to start this blog (maybe that will come later), I decided that for a procrastinator like me it would be better to just dive right in.  So without further adieu I wanted to share with you a new recipe in hopes that it might inspire you to enjoy baking a warm, homey treat on a cold, rainy day like this one is at my house.  Read the next post for a recipe for Cherry Almond Scones.