Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Souper Dinner south of the border

Ready to head a little south of the border? Here's the recipe, as promised, for my black bean soup. This one is good loaded up at the end with shredded cheese and sour cream. But let me warn you, you may not want to invite fancy company over to eat it with you. Once that cheese is all melty, it can get a bit messy!

You already know I'm not great about having exact recipes but here is an ingredient list:

chicken broth - 1 can or 1/2 a carton
salsa - 3/4 cup (I much prefer Pace chunky picante, even though Chi Chi's is pictured)
diced or petite diced tomatoes - 1 can undrained (or use fresh)
chopped onion - 1 small to medium
black beans - 2 cans
white beans - 1 or 2 cans of great northern, navy, pinto or white kidney, drained
red beans - 1 can of light red kidney
cumin - to taste, maybe 2 teaspoons
red pepper flakes - to taste, maybe 1 teaspoon
sea salt - to taste
sour cream - to taste
shredded cheese - Mexican blend or cheddar, added to taste
tortilla chips - well you can't have just one, now can you?

Chop the onion. (If y'all could see me doing this you would laugh - I'm so bad with a knife. But don't tell anybody that because grabbing one is my big plan should a robber ever break in. I don't want him knowing I'm more likely to cut myself with it.)

Dump one can of black beans, undrained, into a blender or food processor and blend to a thick baby food consistency. This will give the soup both flavor and body. (Note, this will look yucky. See below. Do it anyway.)

Combine all ingredients - except the to-taste ingredients - in a soup pot and heat to a slow boil, or until the onion softens and it is heated well throughout. Add spices to taste.

*I like to do this the day before then refrigerate overnight and rewarm the next day. Soup always tastes better the second day. But this one is still good the first night.

Serve with the chips, cheese, and sour cream on the table so each person can add as much as they want to their bowl - the more you add, particularly of the sour cream, the more it cuts the "spice factor." In our family, we load it up with cheese! Then one of us crushes their chips into their bowl, another one uses their chips as a spoon, and one of us puts a spoonful of soup in their mouth and then takes a big bite of chip. I'll leave it to you to figure out how to eat it. But you'll need napkins no matter your method.

And Voila!
Oh wait, that's French not Mexican ... anybody know the Spanish word for voila??

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Weight of Honor

Thanks for responding with comments and emails to the question I posted. The reason I ask is my church is planning a series on this topic (honoring our parents) and I'm helping with research.

I've discovered this is a big issue and source of stress for a lot of people. We want to be faithful to God's command - it's #5 of the Big 10 - but often find it hard to do. And we're not really sure where, if anywhere, to draw the lines.

I suspect part of the problem lies in our notions of the word "honor." The word in the original language simply means "weight" or "weighty." That doesn't paint a real clear picture of how to do this verb, does it?

Some of my friends have said they feel it is always right to obey our parent's wishes ... no matter our age, no matter the circumstance, and no matter what their wishes are. They see it cut and dry. We honor them. We consult them, listen to them, and follow their advice. I suspect they have great parents.

Others look at their parents and all the grievous mistakes they've made and figure honor is not due here. Or they look at the unhealthy, unethical, unmoral things their parents advocate or do and think, "Surely I'm not suppose to follow their will." These friends reason that, particularly as adults, our primary allegiance is to God while our parents' wishes rank below that. These gals put up some boundaries or limit their interaction with their parents just to maintain their own safety and sanity, or that of their children. (Naturally, their parents may feel disrespected by this.)

I'm thinking the crux of the issue is: according to whose perception are we honoring them? Do we measure how well we honor our parents on whether or not we're making them happy? On whether or not we are agreeing with them? On whether or not they'd say we're respecting or disrespecting them?

In other words, who are we getting our definition of honor from? I'm not sure that our ideas of what it means to honor our parents, God's ideas of what it means to honor them, and their ideas of what it means for us to honor them, always line up.

Still other friends told me about their difficult, unbelieving parents and the struggles they faced over the years trying to maintain a healthy degree of relationship with them and honor them as best they could. And to my friends' surprise, their parents were eventually won over, came to Christ, and changed their ways!

So this is a "weighty" topic indeed. Personally, my own mother has passed away, though I had some issues with her before then. And I have a great relationship today with my father, for which I am grateful. Thanks for talking with me as I sort through this tough topic. I'm looking at various verses and praying for understanding.

PS. It's going to be 89 degrees here today so I'm thinking of stealing away to the beach this morning!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tough Questions

Here is the question I'm currently asking of everyone I know:

You’re familiar with God's command (5th of the Big 10) to honor our parents, which carries with it a promise of long life, right?

I’m wondering what does that look like?
And what if your parents were abusive crack addicts?
And why can’t we really point to people's life spans and prove the long life part?

Heavy, I know. But if you have 2 cents to share on this, I’d love to hear it.
Heard any good teachings on this topic?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Souper Easy Dinner

The beginning of fall sends me to the lower cabinet by the fridge where I keep my two large crock pots. For the next 6 months at least one of those pots will be in use, often with a soup.

Y'all asked for recipes last week so I'll share two I make often -- a Mexican soup and a chicken-vegetable. We just had the chicken-vegetable last week after the middle school football game. So I'll tell you about that one today (pic below is from my son's second serving). It's not necessarily pretty but it is colorful, healthy and easy!

I don't have a recipe for this one; I just made it up. So this is more of a guide than a recipe.

I usually use a mix of fresh, canned and frozen veggies. I always use a frozen soup veggie blend, a fresh onion, and a can of diced tomatoes. Oh and it must have frozen okra in it also. Trust me on that, even if you think you won't like it. If I have some fresh celery to chop, or a zucchini to slice, or some cabbage in my fridge, I'll throw that in too.

Both fresh and frozen (uncooked) chicken breast work.

Chicken Broth or Stock - 32 oz carton or maybe a couple of cans
Chicken Breasts - (2-3)
Frozen soup mix veggies -2 bags
(contains carrots, celery, corn, green beans, lima beans, potato, okra)
Onion, chopped - 1 medium
Diced tomato - 1 can, undrained

Bay leaves - 2
Basil leaves - 2 (or a couple shakes of dried basil flakes)
Celery Salt
Lemon Pepper
Garlic Powder
Chicken Bullion
Salt and Pepper

Spice to taste (once the chicken is safely cooked through). The garlic, lemon pepper, and thyme are the strongest flavors in this list. I typically put all three in, but often I choose one of the three to "feature" a little heavier than the others.

Cook Time: I cover and cook the ingredients for 4 hours on high with a moderate amount of the spices. Then I lift the crock out - break up the cooked chicken with a fork - and put the crock in the fridge until the day I want to serve it. I pull it out on that day and put it on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. I finish spicing to taste about a half hour before serving. I find soups taste noticeably better if you let the flavors meld together for a day or two in the fridge before reheating and serving.

Serves: I make a crock pot full, which the four of us will eat over 2 different nights spread through out a given week - you can obviously make less. I serve it with crusty bread & butter, cheese toast, Ritz crackers, or cornbread. Else I add a sandwich.

Experiment and find which veggies you like to use, which spices and how much bullion brings it to a flavor you love. Later this week I'll make and post the Mexican soup I adore.

Bon Appetite!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An open letter to Kohl's ...

Dear Kohl's,

First let me say that I love you and your fabulous sales. Plus, with your "Kohl's Cash," you make shopping feel like a fun job where I earn money. I've also gotten many a present at your store ... I've even been known to stand outside your doors at 5:45 am on the morning after Thanksgiving with Starbucks in one hand and the "Black Friday" sales flier in the other.

But today - September 17, 2009 - you've gone a little too far. Today as I walked in to buy a present for a kid's birthday party, I saw not one, not two, not three, but four CHRISTMAS TREES. Fully decked out! With racks of ornaments and holiday decor nearby. I even touched one to make certain I wasn't hallucinating.

I thought I was jumping the gun by decorating for fall at the end of August ... you people are zooming straight to Christmas two weeks after Labor Day?!?

Please stop the faux-snow insanity and let me enjoy all things pumpkin, and colored leaves, and acorns. Have you seen my fall to-do list? I need more time before I have to think about evergreens, nativities, and stocking stuffers. I promise I'll still be outside on Black Friday if you'll stop trying to force Christmas before October. Really, it's not a good idea ... you'll peak too soon.

Sincerely (on behalf of women everywhere),
Rachel in North Carolina (where it is still 85 degrees!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TMI, lattes and The Message

Hey there. I don't really have anything important, insightful, or witty to say but nonetheless I need to say something because 1) it's been awhile, and more importantly 2) I want to bump down the last post where I published the actual true circumference of the widest part of my thigh.


Girls, that is a prime example of the dangers of blogging. Or at least the dangers of blogging alone. Friends should not let friends blog alone, at least not with tape measure in hand.

I reckon I'll just ramble for a few paragraphs to fill some space ...

Let's see, I've just finished teaching my class at the university, then I had dinner with the fam, and now I'm in the coffee shop at Barnes and Nobel. But I'm not having any coffee. I found out months ago that too many pumpkin-spice lattes make my thigh circumference stats go up.

Instead, I'm waiting for my appointment at the professional massage spa next door. Today they are doing a fundraiser for the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. All massages are half price and that money is donated to the foundation. I'm pretty sure if Martha were here she would deem it "a good thing." This is soooo my kind of fundraising.

I'm also toying with the idea of reading through the entire Bible in The Message translation in 2010. Anybody done that? They have it out in book form (see here). Anybody interested in doing it with me? Each day's reading ends with just two questions for reflection or application. We could read and then post our answers to one or both of the questions. Just a thought I'm mulling around.

I've already started making homemade soups - something I do all fall and winter. But I'm waiting for the cold weather to officially start before I make a pot of chili. I'm chili-dreaming. Or would that be chilly-dreaming?

(I warned you I didn't have anything intelligent or witty to say.)

Well, I've sufficiently bumped that post down now, so off I go to lay face down on a table while inhaling aromatherapy, listening to calming zen music, and letting a complete stranger named Kay coax the tension from my back.
Is that weird? Suddenly that seems weird.
Well, if it helps cure breast cancer ...

I fear this is turning into another one of those posts where I need somebody to tell me to stop typing and back away from the computer before I create more bloggy regrets.

PS. I just realized I have no idea how much to tip for a half-price, fundraising massage.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Take that Robert Plant

I started taking gymnastics at an early age, and excelled at it. My father tells me I spent more time upside down than right-side up during my formative years - maybe that's why I'm not quite right. Anyway, by the time I was ten, I'd spend upwards of 12 hours a week practicing or competing. That's in addition to my free time I spent flipping in the front yard or standing on my hands on the balance beam in my garage.

I was extremely fit, and quite buff back in the day. For a tween-aged girl.

I had muscles like no 7th grade girl you'll see mulling around the accessories aisle at Claire's. Seriously, in middle school my calves and thighs were more muscular than all the girls and many of the boys I knew.

It was hard finding jeans to fit in the junior dept - seems they were always too snug through the hips and thighs. (Many thanks to whoever invented the "curvy fit" jean.) I felt self-conscious in a bathing suit next to my super-skinny peers. (Kudos to whoever invented that wrap skirt cover-up thing for bathing suits, but I wish they'd done it sooner.)

The radio didn't help me get over my body issues either. ZZ Top sang about Legs back then, only the girls in their video barely had any. Robert Plant crooned, "I don't know but I've been told, a big legged woman ain't got no soul." Whaaat? Isn't it bad enough my middle school legs were better defined than the US tax code, do you also have to accuse me of being soulless?

I've since made peace (mostly) with my thighs, but oh how I hated them then. The only good purpose they served was catapulting me into the air so I could turn flips.

But wait, turns out there is another good purpose they serve. Finally, happy news for those of us with fuller thighs. Apparently, having a thigh circumference of less than 23.6 inches puts you at significantly higher risk for heart disease or dying prematurely! A circumference of less than 18 inches is particularly risky. I have to admit, sadly, they found no additional benefit in having thighs larger than 23.6 inches though. Here is the article proving this sounds-too-good-to-be-true fact.

So my thighs might just save my life? Cool. Now, that's worth flipping over.

Right now you are wondering where your tape measure is. Pull it out, measure, and take heart - literally. I don't know exactly where to measure so I went with the largest looking spot and mine measured 22.25. A little less than the magic 23.6 figure. Shhh, don't tell anyone my number. I wear black pants to make them appear smaller. I think I'm fooling people.

Now you go measure yours, only don't tell me if your thighs are smaller than mine ... that might trigger another complex. :) Meanwhile, I'm off to the neighbor's trampoline to turn a few flips in honor of my full, heart-healthy thighs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Late August Highlights

Thought I should pop in at my blog and at least post some highlights from my previous week:

  • Taught a Next Steps coaching session for writers via conference call last night. Just between you and me (and the internet) ... it is surprisingly awkward to speak into a phone for an hour straight and teach something without being able to see or hear your audience.

  • My daughter started middle school. After the very first day she came home complaining about her (perfectly skinny and fit) thighs. Does a body image complex come standard with the middle school math text or something?
  • Started back teaching at the university. I love teaching fall semester at the college. It makes me want to put on plaid skirts and "brainy glasses." Looks like I have a good group of students this semester.
  • My now deceased mother-in-law was delivered to my door step. Her wishes were to be cremated. She had already pre-arranged and paid for it. That much I knew. What I didn't know was that my hubby told them to deliver the results to our house. Being the only one home that afternoon I answered the door thinking it was a florist delivery. I had to sign for her. Surreal. Where do you set your mother-in-law??
  • Have family in town. My sister-in-law from Great Brittan has been staying with us. (She married a Brit.) She's been enjoying the southern food she doesn't get there. It's fun to cook for someone who raves over every bite.
  • My church moved from 3 services to 4. Yes, it's a large church. But small groups and serving make it live small.
  • I've decorated for fall. Every year I wait too late to do it b/c it doesn't get cold around here until end of October. But not this year. The fall wreaths are out, along with the fall flag and gourds. Makes me smile, even if I'm walking past it in shorts.
  • Also brought out my favorite fall candles like "Harvest" and "Spice, Spice, Baby" by Yankee. Then there is a soy one, "Vanilla Blossom," that sits on my file cabinet in my home office year round (see pic above). Got it on sale at Target about 3 years ago. I sooooo love it but can't buy it anywhere any more. I've even scoured the internet. So I only burn this like 5 times a year. Yes, I'm hoarding it. And sometimes I sniff it unlit. It's a sickness. If you smelled it you'd understand (maybe).

Hope you are doing well. And if you ever find a vanilla blossom soy candle, buy 10 of them for me and I'll pay you back!