When kindness makes a difference

downloadBecause the refrigerator shelves were empty.

Because there would be seven extra mouths to feed.

Because there must always be bananas and cheese to make my world go round.

Because there was a new Aldi in Forest Lake.

Because Aldi is like crack for the cheap grocery maven.

Because there are double seated carts.

Because I have two babies and a three year old.

Because the three year old has laughing blue eyes, and is the very definition of mischievous.

Because gum.

Because we needed fruit, and bread, and things to make the guests feel at home.

Because the cart was close to overflowing.

Because the babies started shrieking.

Because big sister had to use the bathroom.

Because twice. In five minutes.

Because tandem screams in tiled hallways are louder.

Because we had to leave before the entire store gave us the evil eye.

Because we unloaded the cart, item by item.

Because I reached for my debit card, only to find it missing.

Because Aldi doesn’t take credit cards. Or checks.

Because I stood still, calculating my losses in terms of time, card, groceries, naps.

Because there were four people in line behind me.

Because one was an angel.

Because she had mercy in her wallet and it paid for my groceries.

Because I wrote her a check with shaky, grateful hands.

Because she asked if I needed any extra help.

Because that question is like chocolate ice cream in August.

Because we loaded up the groceries in canvas bags.

Because I buckled in my girls, then searched the van for my missing card.

Because I wanted a piece of gum.

Because there was my card, tucked behind the spearmint.

Because a mischievous someone proclaimed that it FIT!

Because grace has to laugh instead of cry.

Because Love is always on the lookout for those in need.

Because God, rich in mercy, first loved us.

Just Because.

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Letter to the soldier I do not know

Dear soldier,

You are a keeper of peace, protector of strangers. You know fear and pain and the pervasiveness of dust.

I am an average American mother of three.

I have only seen movies of you on the front line, in documentaries of war, in headlines and radio blips. I am fully sheltered from the deep, dark difficulty of your work.

But please hear me. I am no less grateful.

Independence means I can take my girls to the grocery store whenever I want. Whenever I need. It means I don’t have to be afraid of a car bomb on the way.

Safety means I can live outside a small town in the country, and I don’t have to worry about raids. No one is killing my chickens for meat, or breaking into my garden for food.

Freedom means I can go into public with my head uncovered and my arms exposed. It allows me to write and speak and call and talk without worry of repercussion.

Pride means having a quiet grace when speaking to those from other places, knowing my position of privilege.

Being American means I can teach my daughters about Faith. About mathematics. About anything they want to know.

The 4th of July means barbeque and beaches and red solo cups, but I’m no fool. These simple things are available because of you. And the man before you. And the one behind you.

To all of you far from home, standing up for a way of life you’re no longer actively able to take part of, I say a strong and quiet word of thanks. It isn’t much, considering all you’ve done.

But it’s what I have to give.

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for you.

Thank you.

Holiday Recipe Reviews

Ok. There are a million holiday recipes that circulate this time of year. And I’m dumb enough to try most of them untested, forty-five minutes before people sit down at the table. So in case you’re wondering, here’s what worked, and here’s what failed. (These are all pictures from the recipe’s websites – links to the recipes are in the titles.)

Image1. Lobster Bisque

Of all the new recipes I tried in December, this was my favorite. Creamy perfection with great lobster flavor. If you are a fan of oyster stew but wish you could still pick out the oysters like you did when you were seven (I know you’re out there), this is a great way to keep it festive and delicious. Don’t pretend it’s healthy, and don’t even start to care. It’s Christmas.

Notes – I used cooking sherry instead of regular, and I subbed in a cup of milk when I ran out of cream. I think I also left out the paprika because that was gone too. It was still great.

Image2. Citrus Salad with Tarragon

I chose this because it looked pretty. Superficial, I know. But when you combine a bunch of different kinds of oranges and drizzle them with an herb infused simple syrup, not much can go wrong. This was a fast, easy addition to brunch.

Notes – Spring for blood oranges – the red innards are what you need to really make the dish stand out. I garnished it with pomegranate seeds because I happened to have some in the fridge. I also used dried tarragon instead of fresh, but I like the idea of using lavender like the recipe suggests. I’d be curious about rosemary as well…

Image3. Cowboy Caviar

My friend Jules turned me on to this amazing dip a few years back. I have some lovely people in my life that are gluten free, so this is the just the thing for them. Plus, the leftovers are amazing on anything – quesadillas, salad, corn muffins – you name it, this dip is up to the challenge.

Notes: I know some recipes call for avocado – DON’T DO IT unless you don’t plan on having any leftovers. This recipe is perfect as is.

Image4. Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)

Another lifetime ago, I spent a couple weeks teaching English in Brazil. My favorite local dish during my time there? Pao de Queijo – cheese bread. Go figure. It’s the texture, thanks to the tapioca flour/starch (they are the same.) I’d never had anything so soft and chewy and bursting with the flavor of cheese. There are tons of recipes for this bread, and depending on how you like it, feel free to experiment. The one linked here is the super easy, fast version that can be made, baked, and finished in 15 minutes. Perfect party food if you ask me. PS – this one is also gluten free.

Notes: I topped mine with fresh rosemary, and I loved the notch up in flavor. But don’t do dried – it’ll be like eating sticks on top your cheese bread.

Image5. Artisan bread boules

Thankfully I have never had any issues with gluten, because I’m a carb freak. Kudos to anyone who can successfully cut out bread from their diets because I’m sure it’s the reason I’ll never get below a certain size. But seriously, that’s ok. I love bread. I will accommodate its effects on my body with utter graciousness. PS – this is not a new recipe for me, but it’s so awesome it deserves to make the list.

Notes: This yeast bread has four ingredients – count em. 4. Water. Flour. Yeast. Salt. And the method is amazingly simple. The only thing I’ve decided to change consistently is to mix it in my kitchen aid. I know it’s no-knead and all, but I get better results when I let my dough hook go to town for a few minutes, so that’s that.

***

Alright. It’s not all roses and easy recipes today, folks. Here’s what failed. I’m not going to link or do pictures because that’s just mean. I probably messed something up. But for the record, here’s what didn’t work in my kitchen this month.

1. Black bean dip. This was supposed to be good with crackers and chips, but it really just ended up looking like, well, poo in a bowl. Even a festive red bowl. I had good intentions of trying to make the leftovers into black bean soup, which is probably what I should have done in the first place and skipped the dip. Unfortunately I forgot the bowl in the back of the fridge. Double fail.

2. Peanut Butter Blossoms. Every year someone else makes amazing peanut butter blossoms, and every year Jason and I whisper to one another that we have to figure out how to get this right. And then, every year, we fail. The cookies turn out bready and hard. So if anyone has a great, tried and true recipe for this Christmas cookie favorite, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH ME. There, see? I begged. It’s getting dire.

3. Fudge.  I hope my mom doesn’t mind me sharing this. 🙂 I love you mama! But it was a little bit satisfying to know that I’m not the only one who can’t make fudge. We used Martha Stewart’s recipe and my mom basically manned the task while I ran to the gas station to buy more peanut butter for my peanut blossoms. This was probably not fair, since my mom is allergic to chocolate. But anyway, it turned out hard as a rock for her too. Maybe it’s Martha. Maybe it’s a family trait. Whatever it is, I need a lesson in proper fudge making.

Right.

So, there you have it. The good and the bad, according to one time-pressed foodie-wannabe mother of three. I have one more group meal to go, which is family Christmas Eve. I’m planning on making Ham Balls (even though the name gives me the willies) because I can prep them, freeze them, and then pull them out and time bake them while we go to Christmas Eve service at our church. They are saucy and sweet. Generally crowd friendly. And well, they look pretty fun all stacked up on a platter, and that’s enough for me.

 

Merry, Delicious, Christmas.