Meatless Monday

From time to time friends looking to incorporate more veggies (especially kid-friendly veggies) ask me for recipes. So in honor of Meatless Mondays (a concept I love but live more fully than 1x/week) I have decided to post veggie recipes on Mondays.

Up this week: veggie enchiladas & red chili rice

Teen has been asking for enchiladas but some days are too full… this menu takes time as it has several steps. At least I make my own sauce and I make a hearty rice side dish. This time I also roasted veggies + made two pans of enchiladas: one with cheese and the other with refried black beans and roasted veggies (guess which one the kids preferred?). You could make the sauce ahead, but I didn’t have time yesterday. So I did it all today and it took just over an hour. Really, not bad.

Enchilada sauce (loosely based on Emeril):
3 Tbsp veggie or olive oil
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 c veggie stock
10 oz tomato sauce (you can use some or all tomato paste but I never seem to have it on hand when I want it.)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan heat oil, add flour, and stir with a wooden spoon for 1 minute. Add chili powder and stir for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Roasted veggies: Sorry, no hard and fast recipe for this one. Get out your roasting pan. Start dicing veggies and tossing them on the pan until you’ve got a full, but not too full, pan. I used 1/2 red onion, 1 small head of broccoli, summer squash, and zucchini, all chunked smaller than if they would be served on their own but not so small that they burned. Just try to cut them to comparable size so they cook at the same speed. Lightly toss with olive oil and sprinkle with a) salt and pepper or b) garlic powder and red chili flakes. Roast at 450 for 20-30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until veggies begin to brown.

Red chili rice (based on Coyote Cafe):
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 c onion, minced
2 c brown rice
2 c veggie stock
3 c water
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp salt
1/3 c chili powder
1 c fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
4 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

In a large pan, heat oil and then saute garlic and onion for 6-8 minutes. Add rice and saute 1-2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (minus optional ingredients), bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20-25 minutes until liquid has evaporated. If using optional ingredients, stir in just before done so they will heat up with the rice.

Enchilada assembly:
I usually make enchiladas as a casserole, layering ingredients. If you’re an enchilada purist, by all means warm up your tortillas and individually fill each one.

Additional ingredients:
Tortillas (I used corn tortillas for cheese enchiladas and whole wheat tortillas for bean/veggie enchiladas but you can use whatever floats your boat)
Shredded cheese
Refried beans (I used refried black beans, but another type could work just as well)
Green onions, chopped

Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a pyrex dish. Layer sauce, tortillas, and cheese for cheese enchiladas (repeat as needed). Layer sauce, tortillas, refried beans (heating them slightly makes them easier to spread), and roasted veggies for bean/veggie enchiladas. Coat top layer of tortillas with sauce and sprinkle green onions. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes until warmed through.

Another option: skip roasting the veggies. Chop a whole mess’a veggies – zucchini, squash, onion, bell peppers, black olives, whatever suits your fancy, plus a can of black or pinto beans or both, drained and rinsed. If you eat cheese, toss some shredded cheese with the veggies and add to enchilada layers. If you’re off cheese, refried beans add that yummy gooey texture that you crave in an enchilada.

Yet more options: Roast the veggies anyway but serve on the side. Add a little enchilada sauce to the red chili rice.

Tween tells me the rice was really, really good. He’s asking for it in his lunch tomorrow. He will eat roasted broccoli like candy, but wasn’t a huge fan of it in the enchiladas. I thought it added a delicious new flavor layer. But you know your family best, and there should be enough options here to suit most everyone.

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In the Name of Jesus

Lots of folks talk about God. Fewer seem comfortable with Jesus. But the name of Jesus is powerful! God sent His beloved Son, Jesus, to live and die and rise from the dead for us, so we could be forgiven and live eternally in relationship with Him. In the name of Jesus we find freedom.

More study in the book of Acts:

Connect
Do you find it easy or difficult to talk about Jesus? Explain.

Study
Read Acts 4:1-13.
How does Luke summarize the content of Peter and John’s message (v. 2)? What does that mean to you?
Why does Luke mention that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 8)?
How does Peter account for the lame man’s healing (v. 10)?
What image does v. 11 conjure in your mind? Quickly skim Psalm 118 for Peter’s reference. What does it add to this image?
Put v. 12 in your own words. What do you think Peter meant?
Based on v. 13, describe Peter and John. What stands out?

Live
What do you think is most important to communicate to others about Jesus?
What does “salvation” mean to you? How would you explain it to someone else?
Do you think others can tell you have “been with Jesus”? Explain.
How is God speaking to you through this passage? What do you think God wants you to do this week to apply the study of His Word?

Pray
Ask God for opportunities and courage to be a witness for Jesus. Pray by name for individuals whom you would like to see come to know Jesus.

Thrive

Both Teen and Tween have learning “differences.” [I hate the term “disability” because, as The Gift of ADHD points out, what society calls a disability comes with its own gifts.] They are both intelligent, and both have gifts that make typical classroom learning a challenge. They might do great at the right charter or private school, but we don’t have that opportunity. And homeschooling would be ridiculously bad for all of us. So we do our best in public schools. Fortunately we have access to extremely good public schools.

Tween had a bad child-teacher match last year. We advocated long and hard for him and yet perhaps insufficiently. I hate being the squeaky wheel and a bigger parenting goal is to equip my kids to persevere even when the going is tough, as it often is.

Prior to this school year, a neighbor suggested I chat with another neighbor, a school psychologist in another district. She read Tween’s file and afterwards recommended that we ask to have him retested as he was previously too young for certain tests that could be revelatory; she felt certain the school would concur.

They didn’t, and I left the meeting in turmoil. Great news: he seems to be doing great. Bad news: we don’t have a complete picture of him as a learner. Major potholes and obstacles likely await him on Education Road. As parents, we will have lots of work to do, meeting with countless teachers and administrators, meanwhile equipping him with various coping strategies and bolstering his courage.

It shouldn’t have to be this hard, but sometimes it is.

Our hearts break for our kids, for the hurts they have and will experience. No avoiding the entwining of a parent’s nervous system with her child’s.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Casting Crowns concert with some friends. Their latest album is Thrive, and the song Dream for You caught my attention:

Let me dream, let me dream for you
I am strong when you’re weak and I’ll carry you
So let go of your plan, get caught by my hand
I’ll show you what I can do when I dream for you

I have dreams for my life, but God’s dreams for me might be different. I have dreams for my kids; they have dreams of their owns; but God holds all of us in His hands. Of course I need to pray and make my best attempt at wise parenting decisions, but I need to let go of the worry and fear. Another line from the song says, “Come to me, find your rest, in the arms of the God who won’t let go.” I can’t change a single thing through my anxiety. When I trust God, I can rest in His arms.

God made these young men, “fearfully and wonderfully,” complete with their strengths and weaknesses. He has planned good deeds for them to do. He wants to know and be known by them, to walk through life in relationship with them, to love them. We all have a better chance at thriving as I make the decision to model faith in God and His dreams for them.

God’s People

Another Acts Bible study for you:

Connect
What actions demonstrate your ongoing commitment to the people closest to you?

Study
Read Acts 2:1-13.
In Acts 1:4-5, Luke records Jesus telling His disciples to wait for the Father’s promised gift, the Holy Spirit. Describe the Spirit’s arrival.

Read Acts 2:14-24.
How does Peter explain what has happened?

Read Acts 2:36-41.
What is the main point of Peter’s message? How does his audience respond?

Read Acts 2:42-47.
Quickly call out all the actions God’s people were involved in. What do you notice?
Go back over each action. Why was each important, and what might that look like for God’s people today?
Are these actions required for God’s people today? Can you think of actions missing from this description? Are there some behaviors we consider necessary for God’s people that might not be? Explain.
Describe the Holy Spirit’s role in a Christian’s actions.
How do the events of Acts 2 fulfill Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8?

Live
How did you first hear the good news of Jesus Christ? How did you respond?
In what ways do we need to repent in our understanding of who Jesus is?
What has changed in your life as you have identified yourself with God and His people?How is God speaking to you through this passage? What actions is God calling you to this week to demonstrate your commitment to follow Him?

Pray
Pray that the Spirit will help you rearrange your life so that your daily actions are in line with your commitment to follow Jesus.
Pray by name for individuals whom you would like to see come to know Jesus. Ask for opportunities to be a witness for Jesus.

Crunch!

The word “crunch” has been rolling around my head this week…

Getting outside your life for a while can help you see your life differently. We spent two months out of the country this summer which gave us lots of time to consider how we have been living – and how we want to live differently. We came home with new resolve: to use more effectively the hours in each day (get up earlier, read/write more, spend less time with screens, etc); to shop locally, farmers’ market preferred; to line dry our clothes (pending the installation of a clothesline); to slow down, set boundaries and live with greater simplicity… Better than New Year’s resolutions, we had by necessity practiced living this way for two months, and so we began the process of implementing things we had learned abroad into our life at home. Cognitive dissonance, a little like culture shock, can be a very good thing.

But sometimes, it seems, it doesn’t matter how great your intentions might be, nor even how great your desire to live out your intentions. Life happens.

Crunch.

We’d been home just over a week when the Guy and I sat down to talk through our calendars. We keep one very colorful Google calendar so we both have access at all times to the Big Picture of our family’s life together. It helps, but it can’t solve all calendaring dilemmas. We were shocked to realize that our family of four has no weekend in September when we will all be home. We have an afternoon, maybe an evening, each weekend, but no whole weekend. The crazy thing? Most of these things had been scheduled for us: work events/retreats, school events, + other likewise mandatory events. The calendar also included a few fun events because, thank God, we had scheduled them before summer began.

I could almost feel the breathing room getting sucked out the open window…

And then my job – oh, how I love my job (most of the time) – exploded. Despite months of advance planning, I faced a seemingly impossible, inflexible and looming deadline. Perfect storm, all my go-to helpers were wrapped up in other totally unanticipated and completely occupying monster projects.

After a full day of meetings, at the time I should have been leaving, I entered an empty office, shut the door, and slid to the floor with my back to the wall. I prayed. I had my gym bag in my cubicle; I have been trying to prioritize healthy habits. I could live this day like I’d hoped but then I would surely miss the deadline. I took a deep breath and mentally released my gym date. Crunch!

Feeling “spirit fatigued” (a new-to-me term by creativity guru Danielle LaPorte) led me to succumb to the chocolate old fashioned doughnut in the workroom. Healthy habits, crunch!

Driving home hours later, after our normal dinner time, I longed for familial comfort and joy. But honestly, the guys were grumpy company. Crunch!

I finished dinner alone and got back to work, albeit in the comfort of my bedroom recliner. Family dynamics followed me and loud arguments unleashed. On a walk-about to clear my head, I noticed that the dinner dishes had been left for me to clean. Really? Crunch!

Later, I found a spider in the bathroom. Normally, I would call one of the guys to deal it (maybe a little too creature-friendly, they catch-and-release spiders), but I felt done with them for the evening. So, ew, yuck, crunch!, there went the spider.

I worked until I had to sleep, and then got up early to work some more. I cancelled all my morning appointments and worked until I met the deadline, against all odds and by the grace of a few divine appointments. Seriously, miracles, random people coming through with just what I needed to get it all done.

In the eye of the storm (oh yeah, more was coming), I found myself with an unexpected quiet part of an hour. Waiting for Tween to finish an appointment, I sat in a shaded area of a parking lot, windows down as summer duked it out with impending fall. Reminding myself how to unwind, I tried to lose myself in a book for a few minutes. A slight breeze joined the elements’ fray and, as my ears tickled, I looked for the source of the sound, a crunch, almost like pebbles falling through a rain stick: crisp, yellowed leaves rolled across the asphalt, crunching the way beneath them.

Their crunch was so lovely, so natural, so gentle, in sharp contrast to the harsh crunches that had landed on my mind and spirit over the preceding hours and days. They took me by surprise, brought me out of myself. They recalled for me the gentle whisper of God’s Spirit, blowing wherever it pleases. God had surprised me that morning with whispered reminders of His presence. Here was another, a few moments’ respite and encouragement that storms don’t last forever. Indeed, seasons change.

This season sits uncomfortably on my soul. I don’t want to live anxiously through each task, knowing eighteen more await. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything nearly so well as I’d like. Something’s gotta give and, for now, it seems it’s me – my priorities, my health, my family. Ugh.

And yet… Tween and I read Jesus Calling for Kids this morning. The day’s reading exhorted that, though sometimes we feel wobbly and overwhelmed by everything on our plate, God is our Strength and our Song. He is with us no matter what, in times when the rhythm beats a bass drum crunch and others when it’s a dixieland band parade joyfully syncopated crunch. Either way, God wants to be our Strength and Song if we look to Him.

The Continuing Acts of Jesus Christ through the Apostles

Our church is doing a study of the book of Acts and I have the privilege of writing the small group discussion guides. Writing Bible study questions might just be one of my very favorite things. As I love to encourage others to read and study the Bible, I will post the studies here.

Our pastor challenged us that historically Christians have put too much emphasis on the acts of the Apostles; that really, the Spirit of Jesus acts through the apostles, through the disciples, and now through us. Yes! We get to participate with God in His work in the world. I pray that you will study along, that your eyes will be opened to see God at work, and that you will participate in the work of God to spread the good news of His Son, Jesus Christ.

So here goes!

Acts 1:1-11

Connect
Think of something unusual, surprising or startling that you have recently witnessed. With whom did you share about this event, and how?

Study
Summarize Luke’s summary of his “former book.”
Luke mentions the Holy Spirit three times in this short passage (vv. 2, 5 and 8). What does he want us to know about the Spirit?
Why do you think Jesus gave the apostles “many convincing proofs that He was alive” (v. 3)?
What seems to be of most concern to the apostles (v. 6)? How was that different from Jesus’ focus (vv. 3-5, 7-8)?
What command did Jesus give them (v. 4), and why (vv. 4-5, 7-8)?
Why might it be significant that Jesus was taken up to heaven “before their very eyes” (v. 9)?
From this passage, what do you know about the apostles that qualified them to be witnesses?

Live
Share a recent experience or relationship in which you were a witness for Jesus.
Why does it seem easier to talk about, for example, a new movie or restaurant than about Jesus?
In what ways might our insecurities about our inadequacies hinder us from experiencing God’s power?
How is God speaking to you through this passage? To whom might Jesus be calling you to be his witness?

Pray
Pray by name for individuals whom you would like to see come to know Jesus. Ask for opportunities to be a witness for Jesus.
Ask God to open your eyes to witness His work in and around you so that you will continue to have stories to share of His great love.

Stir-Fry Yum!

One of my favorite creative pastimes is cooking. And for this family of vegetarians, I am constantly on the lookout for simple and delicious ways to combine veggies. I love a good stir fry, but I’ve usually found both my attempts and recipes I’ve consulted to be hit-or-miss.

This week was different – hooray! We had visited the farmers’ market, so I had a fresh red bell pepper, a head of broccoli, an onion, gorgeously crisp green beans, and baby bok choy; I had some rainbow carrots already in the fridge.

See the original recipe here.

Of course I played with it… don’t most cooks? I adjust for what I have on hand, for our palates and dietary issues. Then again, I don’t want to be one of these ridiculous recipe blasters

Instead of snow peas, I used red bell pepper and bok choy. I divided my veggies into two bowls: those that would take longer to cook and those that wouldn’t; we like even our cooked veggies on the crispy side. Right at the end I added some hoisin sauce and some garlic-chili paste. I left out the salt because soy sauce has enough. I didn’t add more ginger, but I might next time (true confession: I think my eyes skipped that line in the recipe).

So here’s my take on Ginger Veggie Stir-Fry:

2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped (divided use)
1/4 c veggie oil
1 head broccoli, chopped into small florets (peel stem and chop that up, too)
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped (I like mouth-sized pieces)
3 large carrots, julienned
3 baby bok choy or 1 large bok choy, chopped
3/4 c green beans, halved
1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
1 heaping Tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp chili-garlic sauce, or more to taste

In a large bowl, combine first four ingredients (1 tsp of ginger); add broccoli, onion and bell pepper and toss to coat. In a smaller bowl, set aside carrots, bok choy and green beans.

Heat remaining oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute veggies from large bowl for about 4 minutes, stirring often. If pan dries out, add water 1-2 Tbsp at a time as needed. Add veggies from the smaller bowl and toss to combine. Add soy sauce, hoisin and chili-garlic sauce plus remaining ginger. Cook until veggies are just hot and remove from heat.

I served the veggies with a simple fried brown rice (prepare brown rice, then fry with a little oil, scramble some egg into the same pan and keep stirring as it cooks through and combines with rice, toss with some low sodium soy sauce, and top with sesame seeds).

I had hoped I’d made enough for lunch leftovers, but even the initially-reluctant Tween (he takes a while to warm up to certain foods) went back for seconds. In my book, that makes this recipe a definite keeper!

Oh, and a tip: I love ginger and throw it in lots of recipes (including most smoothies, and I have a smoothie most days). I use a veggie peeler to shave slices; fresh is best, but a little ginger goes a long way and I hate to have it go bad, so I shave the whole root and freeze it so I always have some on hand.