Love from the Kitchen – Jamaican Lentil Stew

Jamaican Lentil Stew

Several times this year, I was asked what I, as a vegetarian, was making for Thanksgiving.  Yes, there is Thanksgiving beyond turkey and stuffing!  I incorporated the festive flavors and colors of sweet potatoes and pumpkin in this flavorful comfort food.  This recipe is adapted from this one here.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 inch piece (1-2 teaspoons) ginger root, grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1-2 teaspoon ground cumin (adjust according to taste)
  • 1 (13 ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 liter (4 cups) vegetable stock
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) split red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1 small sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan, add the onion and saute until transparent.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté another 2 minutes until fragrant; lower heat and stir constantly to avoid burning.
  3. Add the spices and sauté for a minute more.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk, stock, lentils, sweet potato and pumpkin puree.
  5. Simmer uncovered over medium – low heat for 40 – 50 minutes or until sweet potato is soft and almost melting into the stew. Be sure to stir occasionally.
  6. NOTE: The stew has a creamy texture and is thick with lentils, sweet potato and pumpkin that melt into a delectable base. If you prefer a lighter soup then add more stock or coconut milk to thin the base.
  7. Great served with bread.

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November 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm 2 comments

30 Day Giving Challenge Midpoint Update

I will praise God’s name with singing and I will honor Him with thanksgiving…The humble will see their God at work and be glad. – Psalm 69:30, 32

Let us not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. – 1 John 3:18


 

My goal this month is to find at least one thing each day to be thankful for, and to find a way of giving to someone, however small.  I’ve been having fun so far this month on my way to this goal of living generously and gratefully.  I think that as I give and give thanks, I see God’s work a little more readily – and this brings me great joy.

Here is a sampling of some of the things I’ve been thankful for the last couple weeks:

  • An evening curled up with a book, a blanket, and a hot cup of tea
  • A husband willing to talk things through, even when we disagree
  • Modern technology that allows me to work from home – even in my pjs when I’m sick
  • Sunlight sparkling on frost on the grass
  • Answered prayers
  • Worship music
  • Freedom to vote
  • God’s love and care for us, both here on earth and in heaven later
  • Accomplished tasks
  • Kittens
  • Chance run-ins with friends
  • The feeling of gliding down a hill on rollerblades
  • Safety while traveling
  • A yellow-leafed tree that was lit up by the sun peaking over the hilltop behind
  • Our veterans and troops currently serving
  • “Rediscovering” an old CD

To help me with my giving goal, I’m participating in the 30-Day Giving Challenge.  Here are a few of the ways I’ve found to give over the last couple weeks:

  • Purchased items for our local food bank, Thanksgiving food baskets being distributed by our church, and Christmas stockings for our troops overseas
  • Gave extra time to my husband
  • Picked up trash on our street after Halloween
  • Emailed a friend I’ve not heard from in a while
  • Went on a prayer walk around our neighborhood, praying for our neighbors
  • Dropped off our shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, filled with all kinds of goodies for children in poor nations
  • Typed up quinoa recipes for a friend at church who was interested when I brought a dish in to a church function
  • Donated some of my credits earned by mailing books to others through Paperbackswap.com to an intercity school in TX and a school near Binghamton, NY that had been flooded when Hurricane Lee passed over.  These credits will be turned into books for their schools.

 

What are you thankful for today?  What ways have you found to give?

November 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

Inward Outward

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

This verse was in my reading this morning and really got me thinking.  It is a source of both comfort and trepidation for me.  On one hand, I am so thankful that God does not judge me by how I look.  He loves me whether or not I have fashion sense, a bad hair day, or that zit on my chin that will not go away.  He also doesn’t judge my worth based on my performance – how I did at work today, how good the meal was that I made, or even how focused I was during my morning Bible reading.  No, God looks at the attitudes of my heart.

And here is the trepidation – I know what is in my heart sometimes.  I know the judgment I pass on others’ appearance or performance, the selfish or hurtful thoughts that go through my mind (and sometimes across my lips), and the tendency toward sin that is ever-present.  And I tremble at the thought of it all being laid bare before the Lord, who is holy beyond imagining.  I am vulnerable and helpless to defend myself, for I have no excuse.  I know better.

Yet there is some freedom in being fully known.  No longer do I have to keep up the act, the performance that I do for other people.  No more masks, no more façade.  There is no need, for all is seen and known.  So, I’m left with just me.  And somehow that brings a measure of relief and even peace.

I also trust that God has forgiven me for those stains on my heart, and Christ has washed me clean.  God no longer sees those blemishes.  Instead, He sees my potential – how I will be when He is finished working in me.

And because He is so focused on the attitudes of my heart, His work starts at the heart and slowly becomes evident outwardly in my actions.  This has been a cause of frustration for me as I pray for God to change me and wait to see the visible results.  Often, this takes a long time because He has so much work to do in my heart first!  But, my desire is for there to be less of an inconsistency between my inward me and my outward me.  So, I wait for God to do His work.

There is a wonderful song called “From the Inside Out” by Hillsong United that expresses my desire.  Here are some of the lyrics and a Youtube video of the song.

A thousand times I’ve failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
I’m caught in Your grace

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out, Lord

Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love you from the inside out.

 

This post is part of Amy’s challenge to find the Finer Things in life.

November 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

Thanks and Giving

Wow, I can’t believe it is November already!  Where has the year gone?  Halloween is over – the rush of kids at the door is done and the candy is (mostly) out of the house.  I am now turning my attention to Thanksgiving.

I love this time of year!  The season is changing (perhaps a little too fast with the early snow!) and I am starting to settle in for the colder, darker months, even if only in my heart since our schedule remains full.  This is also the time when the anticipation begins for me of the holiday season – a time of family, friends, food, and fun.  Sure, it brings a measure of stress with it, but the wonder and excitement override that.

Snow on our neighbor's maple tree on Oct 28, 2011

This year, though, I don’t want November to be simply the runway for the holidays.  I want to live intentionally this month, leading up to Thanksgiving, whose name encapsulates how I want to live – with thanks and giving.

So often, I race through life, rarely pausing long enough to notice the many blessings in my life, much less thank God, the One responsible for them.  In the same way, I’m often too rushed or preoccupied with my own life to notice those around me, be they strangers or loved ones.

My goals this month are to find at least one thing each day to be thankful for, and to find a way of giving to someone, however small.  For the latter, I’m joining the 30 Day Giving Challenge, a group of people encouraging each other to consciously give each day of November.

30-Day Giving Challenge

What about you?  Will you join me in thanks and/or giving this November?

November 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

Celebrating Little Joys – Peace Lily

In our last Bible study book, God Chicks, we learned about how God wants us to be “Party Chicks” and celebrate the little joys in this life.  Doing so makes us more conscious of all the blessings God gives us during our days and keeps us so much more positive.

My little joy today is the flower that my peace lily has put out.  I’ve had this cute little plant for 2 years and it hasn’t flowered since its initial flowering when I got it.  Our out-of-town friends left it for us when they stayed at our place while they were in for her mother’s funeral.  To me, that makes this little flower all the more beautiful.

 

I’m also excited that my wicker shelf – a $2 yard sale find – is finally all cleaned up.  It was originally white, dirty, and very stained.  Amazing what a can of spray paint will do!

 

What little joy are you celebrating today?

 

This post is part of Amy’s challenge to find the Finer Things in life.

October 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

Happy Mistakes

This August, Steven and I took a short vacation to Acadia National Park in southeastern (or downeast) Maine.  I was thrilled to be able to share this beautiful jewel introduced to me as a kid with my husband.

Our first day, we set out to hike Penobscot Mountain, some 900 feet above where we parked the car.  The first part of our route was easy, following some gravel carriage roads past a sparkling pond.  We then took a foot path into the woods and up the side of the mountain where we encountered this beautiful waterfall.

The trail then turned steep and it was a very hot, muggy day.  We’d brought a map with us, but it did not have topo lines, nor did it have all the trails marked, only the main trails.  So, by this point, we were going on memory of the sign at the trailhead.

Acadia ridgeline

We finally gained the top of the ridge above treeline and were greeted by a lovely breeze – and a choice.  Do we go left or right on the trail that ran the ridgeline?  We chose left and headed up the gentle slope that was a very welcome change from the steep climb.  After a few “false summits” we arrived at the top and came upon this sign.

Sargent Mountain?!  But where was Penobscot?  We were too tired to care at the moment and besides, the view was stunning!

After a rest, some lunch, and some time drinking in the views, we headed back toward where Penobscot should be, taking a different route back to the car.  Well, we did find Penobscot but we didn’t visit.  It was an additional long, steep downhill and uphill from the ridge-top trail and we didn’t have the energy to get there, nor would we have had we gone the correct direction to begin with.  I was so glad we had taken the “wrong” turn and had the pleasure of the view from Sargent.  Steven called it a “happy mistake.”

As we headed down the mountain to the car, I reflected on other happy mistakes in my life – times when I’d set my course, thinking I knew where I wanted to go, but then something changed and I ended up somewhere else.  On each one, I could see God’s fingerprints.

I believe that God is outside of time as we know it and sees the whole picture at once – space and time.  He also knows me intimately because He made me and knows what I can handle and when, even better than I do.  And sometimes, He changes my route midstream, if it suits His purposes, to something better or more appropriate for me.  These are His Providential Mercies, or “happy mistakes.”  Sometimes I get glimpses of what would have been if I’d taken my initial intended course like we did at Penobscot.  But, usually I do not and I must trust that these changes of route are truly for my good.  This is where faith comes in, and a look at God’s track record in the Bible, my life, and the lives of others that reveal His goodness and sovereignty.

How about you?  Have you experienced a happy mistake in your life?  Did you get to see what would have been?  I’d love to hear your story!

October 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm Leave a comment

Why small kindnesses matter

Sunday morning was rough for me.  I was in one of my feeling-down-about-myself moods and was feeling like a failure.  Combine a natural tendency toward depression with hormones and you get one ugly mess!  I didn’t feel like going to church and being around people, but went anyway, knowing that being with God always helps.  I cried through much of the worship, my husband’s supportive arm around me getting me through, along with Pastor Tom’s exhortation to the congregation to let go of our self-centered thoughts and fears and worship the Lord (which initially stung).

After the service, Steven went off to talk to someone, and I was just about to sit down to wait for him, not wanting to talk to anyone.  But, one of the worship team singers came up to me then.  She had seen my tears and was concerned about me.  We’re fairly new to this church and I hadn’t ever talked with her, so I was really touched.  She prayed for me and we chatted a bit.


Photo credit

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that her simple act of kindness changed the course of my day.  She helped me out of my dark world of self-pity and into the light of reality.  I was able to enjoy several other conversations with people at church and had a much lighter spirit the rest of the day.  I am so thankful for her willingness to reach out to me in love.  I hope I can someday do the same for someone else.

Have you been the recipient of a small kindness recently?  Or given a small kindness?

September 27, 2011 at 9:50 am Leave a comment

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Blessed is the one...whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

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