March 11, 2018

Just tell the story: and other reflections about manmade traditions

On Friday nights, I AWANA. I’m with the k-2nd grade group, and it’s a fun class. Especially the kindergarteners. They’re sweet kids who get super motivated and competitive about those little plastic “jewels” they earn from memorizing Bible verses.

Anyway, the lesson one week was about Jesus’s “Parable of the Sower.” Now, if you grew up in church at all, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you didn’t grow up in church or spend much time in a traditional (expositional) church, you may not make the connection immediately. Why?

Because “sower” isn’t a word for the average 21st Century English speaker.

And this is where the trouble began. Even after reading the whole story to the kids, even after watching a cartoon showing the action of a man spreading seeds along various types of soils, they still had it in their minds that Jesus was talking about someone who makes clothes and fixes buttons. Not a farmer.

(It was actually a very good lesson, once we got over this hump. And the kids did get it in the end. Just to say.)

But Jesus was talking about a farmer.

But instead, we use the word “sower.”

Why?

Because it’s the KJV word, and darn it, we use the KJV word even in the ESV, the NIV, the HCSB, and mostly whatever English version you have, because – tradition. That’s really the only reason. Manmade tradition.

And then we have to spend waste time explaining to people what a “sower” is before we can even get to the point of the story.

I find myself getting frustrated by these things more and more frequently. “Joy” instead of “happiness.” “Sower” instead of “farmer.” “the LORD” instead of “Yahweh” (that one goes way beyond frustration for me, actually.")

Why do we purposely obfuscate plain meanings of Scripture? Is it because we feel more spiritual, or more learned, if we use the “old” English word for something? I mean, we don’t go so far as to insist on “thee” and “thy” anymore, usually. Because we know that’s a linguistic stumbling block for the average 21st century English speaker. And I feel pretty confident saying that, when translating the Bible into other languages, they choose the most accurate contemporary equivalent for individual words and phrases as possible.

Why are we so uncomfortable doing this in English?

Why don’t we give up the other sacred cows of our churchy vocabulary and recognize that saying “farmer” instead of “sower” doesn’t dilute the power of the Word any more than translating the Bible from Latin into English did? In fact, I dare say it would have the same beneficial effect.

December 29, 2017

Meal Planning 101: Setting Up for 2018

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I won’t claim to be an expert, but I will tell you that I’ve honed a system for meal planning that has taken so much stress and frustration out of my routine. And yes, it does involve getting set up for the entire year. Don’t feel overwhelmed – an hour or two of time the first week of January is all it takes. If you’re interested in giving it a try this year, read on:

Step 1: Choose your tool

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Planners are such a personal choice, I’m not going to say you MUST pick this-that-or-the-other. However, I do have some strong suggestions:

  • Get one with a 12-month length. My system works best this way, and I really feel like it’s worth it, whether it’s a dedicated meal planner or a life planner.
  • Make it portable. You don’t have to take it to the grocery store every time, of course, but once you get into the swing of things, you’ll be surprised at how often meal inspiration hits you, and it’s nice to be able to write it down right away
  • Try a few. If you aren’t settled on a planer system right away, don’t give up if the first one or two you try just don’t work, for some undiscernible reason. There’s a reason there are dozens of planners and brands and styles. Something different works for everyone.

Step 2: Make your list

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This is your master list of all the meals you know your family will eat, at least most of them, most of the time. Make sure you can add to it throughout the year as you discover new winners. Throughout the year you will pull from this list so you don’t have to “come up” with fresh ideas out of the clear blue. Mine is just a random list in no particular order. If you want to put them in a more organized system, such as style or length of cook time, that’s a great idea. But a simple list works for me.

NOTE: Make the list. Trust me. I have a deep kitchen drawer stuffed with cookbooks that only get referenced a few times a year – when a recipe I’ve written on the list pops up. Unless you are already in the habit of pulling out every. single. cookbook. (and facebook video and pinterest link) every. single. time. you sit down to meal plan, you probably won’t start now. Make the master list, and refer to external sources when necessary.

Step 3: Choose your favorites

This is why I recommend a 12 month system. This is where we start making headway. I pick out a handful of meals that we don’t/shouldn’t eat too often – because they take all afternoon to make, because they are delicious calorie bombs and we will eat the whole casserole in one evening, because they call for exotic ingredients that hit our budget – but that we do love eating, and I scatter them throughout the year.

For example: I pick lasagna, and I write down “lasagna,” on the 3rd Friday of every quarter. Then I pick out Chicken Pot Pie, and I write it down on the 6th Friday of every quarter. Etc. Depending on how many of those types of meals you have, you can have 20 or 30 dinners already “planned” before you even get to that month in real life.

Step 4: Come up with “hints”

Friday nights are (usually) crock pot nights here, because our schedules mean we eat dinner separately. Thursday nights are family Bible study night, which means I make a big entree we share with 3 other families. Saturdays and Sundays are either takeout or something simple like frozen pizza. With those already set, that only leaves me 3 or 4 days a week where I need to actually plan a meal each session. And then some are already planned, because of Step 3! See? Less work in August because I put in the extra work in January. When you figure out your “hints” to help you segment your weeks and days, it flows much more quickly!

Step 5: Give yourself flexibility

You might be thinking: “How can I plan meals 5 and 6 months away? I don’t know what I’ll feel like tomorrow, or even next Tuesday?” When you start each meal planning session – whether it’s one week, two weeks, or an entire month - the trick I’ve found is to use a rubric for planning each set of meals. Ask: How many beef meals are we eating? How many poultry? Fish? How many Italian, how many Mexican, how many comfort food, etc. Keeping a mix/balance in each set of planned meals allows for some “spur of the moment” wiggle room, because one your meals are planned, you can buy all the ingredients you’ll need, and have them on hand.

And there you go! The framework for a solid start to meal planning for 2018. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I also post many of my meals on instagram now, @jacilikestoeat.

If you have your own tips and tricks to share, feel free to leave them below and share the wealth Smile

August 8, 2017

Great American Cookie Company Icing Copycat Recipe

And if you don’t think that’s a sexy title, you’ve got rocks for brains.

icing

Ladies and gentlemen.

It is here.

I scoured the interwebs, I tested recipes and variations of those recipes. I went to multiple stores to get just the right ingredients. I sighed. I (nearly) cried. I bashed my head against the steering wheel. I drank a real coke.

They said it couldn’t be done. They said “nearly” was “as good as.”

They were wrong.

This is the end of a personal odyssey lasting years. To crack the secret of the Great American Cookie Company’s icing.

Anyone can make a giant chocolate chip cookie. That’s no big deal. Anyone can pop open a can of premade frosting and call it good. But that’s not good enough in this household. To be a legit cookie cake (or double-doozie) it has to be the real GACC icing. There is no substitute.

At least, until now.

Like I said, there were other recipes consulted and multiple tweaks made. You won’t find this recipe anywhere else. This is the one, y’all. Posted on August 8, 2017.

Without further ado (and I am all about making as much ado about this as possible, I feel like I just won the Olympics. I may even feel empowered enough to take on Mazzio’s Ranch) here it is: the recipe

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Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons merengue powder
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk (approximately)
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

Combine wet/wet-ish ingredients in large bowl. Gradually incorporate powdered sugar and merengue powder alternatingly. Beat at high speed until stiff. It will be VERY stiff. *This makes a lot of icing. Enough for a two-layer 11x14 cookie cake with a thick center layer, and then some.

January 11, 2017

Recipe Post: Chicken Noodle Soup

Honestly, there’s nothing really exceptional about this recipe, except that it works. I don’t make my own bone broth or my own noodles or anything. But, if you want a solid go-to chicken noodle soup recipe, this is the one. It’s really easy, and when Miss G gets a bit older, it’ll be a good one for her to help me with. I tend to make my chicken noodle soup more stew-y than soup-y, so bear that in mind.

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Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breasts (I use frozen) - 2
  • Box of chicken broth
  • Water, as needed
  • Carrot, large
  • Celery stalks, 2
  • Seasoned salt – 1/2 tbsp
  • Pepper – 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic powder – scant 1/2 tsp
  • Package of egg noodles

Directions:

Take a large pot and put in the chicken breasts and chicken broth. Add water as needed until chicken breasts are covered. Simmer chicken breasts until cooked through (for frozen, I leave it for about an hour). Chop carrot and celery. Remove chicken breasts. Add vegetables and seasonings to broth. Shred chicken and add back to broth. Bring to a boil. Add in desired amount of noodles. boil noodles according to package directions. Turn off heat and let set 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.