No Florida Fare During a Polar Vortex ~ beet soup (Winter Borscht)

Winter Borscht

With temps in Jacksonville dipping to 32 degrees at night (not good for the orange groves), I wanted something warm and comforting to eat. Shrimp ceviche, chicken salad with white grapes,  or Caesar salad with roasted chicken pieces  wasn’t as appealing as it was a week ago.

So, I fell back on the Slavic food of my heritage and a couple of days ago whipped up a pot of vegetarian winter borscht. I didn’t eat it vegetarian. I sprinkled a healthy dose of uncured real bacon bits on top and added the dollop of light sour cream you see in the photo. I never use fat-free sour cream. It’s got imitation everything. But I often has as a staple in my fridg uncured bacon or light (reduced fat) sour cream.

I don’t give recipes any more because I don’t use them. I chopped up two stalks of organic celery and threw it in because I had it on hand, wanted to use it, and celery is healthy eating. My mother and grandmother didn’t use celery in their borscht, but I’ve found it in some recipes. Of course, to me, these are simply guidelines. I like cooking without a net.

Speaking of cooking without a net…as it hadn’t gotten any warmer, yesterday I made a pot of brats with cabbage, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery…totally without a net. I use little to no oil and the Johnsonville beef brats were lean. So, I threw in some organic apple cider vinegar to add flavor. It was only partially successful. During the next Polar Vortex, when I make it again, I’ll also add cubed Granny Smith apples. I think that would make it absolutely yummy.

I cook without a net, however, I don’t recommend living without one. If my recipe is only semi-successful, I can improve on it the next time. In life, sometimes there is no next time. When we make a mistake, we might have to live with the consequences for years. Jesus is my net. I believe in intentional living based on biblical principals without being legalistic, and it works for me.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29: 11 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

There are many excellent winter borscht recipes. Here’s a simple one from Eating Well Recipes that looked really good to me and doesn’t have exotic ingredients my Ukrainian grandmother never heard of and doesn’t require a culinary degree to prepare it.

Eating Well Borscht

 

 

The Epistle to the Hebrews ~ it’s deep, heavy man

fountain

I’ve had HOLIEST OF ALL by Andrew Murray on my shelf for a number of years, and I’ve been meaning to read it. Really. But it’s 600 pages and Murray is no light weight, and I’ve been a wimp.

So, the Lord did me one better. He brought to my remembrance that I’ve been wanting to do a Bible study at home. What better book than Murray’s HOLIEST OF ALL. That’ll learn me to put off a little…ahem…light reading.

I thought, well the chapters are short, I can get through one or more per day. So, I opened the book today. Murray simply prints out the entire book of Hebrews to start. So, I read what was on the printed page, though I’d read it many times before. Murray uses the King James translation.

Here we go…

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, ~ Hebrews 1:1 King James Version (KJV)

And God stopped me right there. I pondered in my heart that if this had been spoken by some guru in an arcane, esoteric, or New Age seminar with crystals all around, wind chimes, a water fountain bubbling in the background, and incense…and if God had been replaced in the text by some nebulous force or source, all the devotees drinking in every word would go “That’s deep, heavy man, awesome.”

And yet, this is the actual, living Word of the Living God, and I’ve glossed over this first line many times to get to the meat of the chapter. So, as I ponder, I’m duly chastened as I realize the “meat” of this chapter starts with line one. It’s deep, awesome, and heavy that our Father God spoke in times past to the fathers (ancient leaders, elders) via the prophets.

Really. How awesome is that? Very awesome. And Christians today have that same, living God within us speaking to us.

And so today, in my Bible study, I just sat with that first line for a while, pondering it in my heart. And also pondering how God can take a line, often read — even often glossed over, and give it new revelatory, living meaning. This can happen with any line in the Bible. And when it does, it’s super deep, exciting, personally meaningful.

Someone may say, “Yeah, but I’ve thought that before.” But when God places the thought or idea as a revelation in a person’s heart, something new and unique happens on a very intimate level. It just happened to be Hebrews 1:1 for me this morning.

Humility ~ is not self-deprecation

Shame

True humility isn’t devaluing or condemning ourselves. It’s not self-debasing humor. It has nothing to do with belittling, cheapening ourselves, or excessive modesty.  This is especially true for Christians.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:1 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

We all seem to have a sharp-tongued little voice that harps out a refrain saying we are not worthy, we are less than. This voice taunts us without our permission and against our will.

It’s the presence of this relentless, antagonistic, often lying or distorting voice that makes me believe there’s something beyond the natural. There’s a spiritual element.

As I wrote that, I realized I’m writing this for myself, as well as for others. — I’m a patient in a local medical practice that was just purchased by a larger medical group. There was confusion in the office when they gave me a follow-up appointment for test results…on a Saturday. I arrived on time for my appointment and the door was locked. The old practice had been open on Saturday, but the hours on the newly painted door said they were closed Saturday. On the drive home, that inner voice berated me. It said, I’d gotten the date wrong. It said they probably said the 18th (a Friday) but I had heard the 19th (a Saturday). What really made me anxious was the voice saying, “You’re getting older, you might be slipping.” Scary.

When I got home, I checked the appointment card they’d given me, held by a magnet to my refrigerator door. The card read: 1/19/19. Yes, a Saturday. They made the mistake. I was NOT slipping because I’m getting older. Yet the voice had tormented me.

This negative voice that seems to run on a “replay loop” is hard to shut off. Even when we later discover we were right and the voice was wrong, it’s left us exhausted. It’s the default, so it seems. That’s why I say, there’s a spiritual element to it.

The truth is, we can quiet and even shut down that harping, negative, self-deprecating voice. We retrain our minds to replace that voice with the Word of God.

 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12: 2 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ~ [NASB]

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 [NASB].

This last one, 2 Corinthians 10:5 is a key. If we destroy all negative speculations that nasty little voice raises against us and replace them with what God says, we can get the upper hand over that voice.

  • we are sons and daughters of God the Father
  • we are made in His image and likeness
  • we are highly favored by God

We have to do it. We have to do and live what the Word says.

  • be transformed by the renewing of our minds
  • think on what is good, pure, lovely, honorable
  • destroy negative speculations…they are only speculations.

Christmas Day ~ in northeast coastal Florida

IMG_2863After my daughter Vicky made a 117 course Christmas breakfast oozing with cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar, as well as homemade sweetbread and fresh blueberries, we had to walk some of it off before dinner. Yes, we had seriously over indulged, thus we we had to intentionally burn some calories off. My body is the temple of the Living God, and I have to treat it as if it is.

We headed for the public boat slip on a cove of the St. John’s River located at our local city park. Duval County is gorgeous in December. Here I’m with Sophie the Wonder Dog.

IMG_2872We sat on the dock and watched the sailboats, deep sea fishing boats, kayaks, paddle-boats, and jet skiers go by. Those jet skiers are hearty folk. Even though it’s Florida, the water is cold. I want to encourage those over 50, as well as “seasoned citizens” to get out and do. Go for it. Live life.

IMG_2869A nearby boat-slip…just beyond the dock.

Merry Christmas to all. The Savior was born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and He dwells with us. Emanuel, God with us.

May you all be blessed in the new year.

 

 

Christmas Eve 2018 ~ a merry time after loss

Vicky is doing a “sleeping beauty” this Christmas morning and I’ve been watching the Nashville Christmas Parade, followed by Kathy Lee and Hoda. It’s been a gentle and quiet Christmas morning which will end when Vic wakes up…the quiet part.IMG_2851

We had a sweet and fun Christmas Eve dinner last night at Miller’s Ale House on San Jose Boulevard, JAX. I was surprised at the number of families having their Christmas Eve meal in the restaurant. Many parents came from work, so it makes sense.  They were short staffed and the hostess was rushed but she insisted on taking this photo of us. A transplant from NYC, I’ve come to love and appreciate southern hospitality and warmth. It makes life so much easier.

Last night, the atmosphere hit the right note for us. We laughed and recalled Christmases past, but this time without pain and loss. We lost Joseph Dennis Chillemi, my husband and Vicky’s dad, in December three years ago. The last two Christmases have been bitter sweet for us.

This year, we’re having a merry little Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas since Joseph passed that Vic and I have felt real happiness and delight at Christmas. I’ve had joy in the Lord and peace at Christmas since my husband passed on December 8th three years ago. This year is the first one that I’ve experienced merriment. Yes, it’s turning out to be a truly merry Christmas for me.

For those who have lost a loved one, I know it will be a different Christmas, but I pray that even in that loss, those who mourn can allow the peace of Christmas to comfort.  There is a “spirit of Christmas.” For Christians, this is a deep and profound thing. NonChristians also feel what Christmas cards and media personalities often call ‘the Christmas spirit’. We don’t understand it, but this spirit seems to bring light and cut through the gloom, depression, and darkness globally.

So, even in your loss, I pray you let the true gentle spirit of Christmas wrap you in warmth.  God is with us, even in the deepest darkest valleys. “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]

In our loss, especially at Christmas, the ‘shadow of death’ seems to envelop those who mourn. I had to tell myself for nearly three years, “It’s a shadow.” It’s not as powerful as it seems. It’s not forever. And this is a valley. It’s also not forever.” When I look at that Bible verse in times of sorrow, I think of God’s rod as His power…His power over death. Jesus conquered death. And His staff is like the staff of a shepherd. The Shepherd leads us onward in our sorrow on a journey out of the valley. It is a valley and it is a journey.

I often think, to honor the importance of the life of the loved one we lost, it should take time. It should be a journey. But God wants us to see that the valley has an end. We do come out and away from the shadow of death. And that also honors the life of the one/s we mourn. It also honors God, who wants us to reenter life fully.

And so, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and blessings and a healthy and happy new year.

Nativity

 

A Hiding Place ~ for Christmas presents

IMG_2840
Beauty, what are you doing in my secret hiding place???

I don’t have to hide Christmas gifts from kids anymore, as mine are adults. However, I have to hide any present in a decorative gift bag from my cats. They love to climb inside bags and hide there, or tear them apart. So, I had a brilliant idea. They’d never find the bags inside the armoire. Would they?

 

 

 

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, ~ John 1:112 [New American Standard Bible – NASB]

Merry Christmas Everyone

 

Cream of Brocolli Soup ~ on a cold Florida day

IMG_2837 (3)

I’ve attempted posting recipes with moderate success. That’s because I don’t cook with a recipe. I’ve tried measuring a 1/2 C of such and so and typing that in the blog article next to the photo, but then as it cooks, I say to myself, “Self, that doesn’t look right,” and I throw in some more. So, how much of that ingredient did I use? I don’t know!!! Just enough to taste good. I taste as I cook, look at the colors of the ingredients, and smell the aromas to know. Do I make mistakes? YES, but all cooks make them, and you can make a mistake following a recipe to the letter. Trust me on that one.

So, It was in the low 40s last night in northeastern coastal Florida. I had to bundle Sophie the Wonder Dog up when I took her for her morning walk. Not to mention, I actually put on a pair of socks, and I never wear socks. May I digress…I was without socks yesterday at the Post Office to mail a Christmas gift. I noticed roughly half the women were in jeans, a sweat shirt and a hoodie or jeans and a heavy cable knit sweater, and over-sized clunky sandals (not the dainty, pretty kind you see all summer) with socks on. This is Florida in winter.

Sophie Winter Coat 2011

Well then, after Sophie, the cats, and I had breakfast, I realized I had a small container of half ‘n half in the refrigerator I had to use. Now, my doctor just reminded me I’d put on weight since my last visit three months ago (Thanksgiving will do that) and my blood pressure had gone up. No alarm siren, but it had gone up. So, I wanted to use the half ‘n half, but not in a super high-cal way

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Light bulb moment…cream of broccoli soup. So, I cut my broccoli florets up into soup-spoon size pieces and covered them with water in the pot and started them simmering on a medium heat? How much water? Enough to cover them. I had red onion (I always do), carrots, and two white potatoes. So, I chopped those up and threw them in. Added parsley flakes, garlic powder, a couple of bay leaves, some jarred seasoned vegetable base, and pepper. (I put some base in, tasted and put some more in…so don’t even think about asking me how much.) No salt. Remember my blood pressure had just gone up. Besides, the veggie base has salt.

I tasted it as it simmered and added more pepper and lowered the heat to low-medium. If I’m cooking only for myself, I taste with the same teaspoon. If I’m cooking for others, I go through all my teaspoons. After about twenty minutes, I tasted again and wanted to thicken it. I often have some Campbell’s turkey gravy on hand and did this time. I added some by eye, stirred and tasted, and added some more. I let it simmer again on low to have the gravy kind of amalgamate with the other flavors. Then I tasted and turned it off. When it cooled off substantially, I added the entire container of half ‘n half, stirred, and tasted. Very good, but it had to cook with the half ‘n half just a bit. Besides it had cooled too much, so I turned on the heat to low and got it to an edible temp. Then I scooped it into a bowl, sprinkled on mozzarella cheese I had on hand and some Parm/Romano… and then I sat down to eat lunch. Good, very good.

I cook by the seat of the pants, and I write by the seat of the pants.