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

 

 

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.

Cream of Brocolli Soup ~ on a cold Florida day

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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.

 

Sophie The Wonder Dog ~ to have surgery

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Soph on her fav perch, the back of my easy chair

When I first saw Sophie, she was in a cage in the small dog section at the ASPCA in New York City. She was so cute, but so unhappy. Those who wanted to adopt a little dog were drawn to her, especially their children. But as cute as Sophie was, she was also angry. She hated the cage, and she growled at a few people who approached. I thought no matter how appealing she looks, she’s not going to get adopted. So, I asked to hold her. At first the attendant was reluctant. She took Sophie out of the cage, but said she’d hold her. I gave her a “Nike look” and said, “No, I’ll hold her.” How else can I know how she will be? But I already knew, no matter how she was, she was mine.”

As soon as she was in my arms, she burrowed into me, plastered herself to me. I whispered to her, “I’m coming back for you.” Then I had to go downstairs, fill out paperwork, pay the fee, and wait a week for them to check references. When I came back to get her, I whispered, “I told you I’d come back.” That was seven years ago.

Sophie is HIGHLY allergic to flea bites. One bite will cause her to scratch and chew herself to bleeding. We’ve battled this for years. We tried Trifexis for dogs (flea med and heartworm med combined. I’ve heard it works miracles on some dogs, not Sophie. Then we tried Comfortis which is more expensive because you have to purchase the heartworm medication separately. It works better on Sophie, but not perfectly. Summertime is still gruesome for her and for me when I see her bleeding. We’ve tried Apoquel for dogs, a med for atopic dermatitis, that is supposed to stop her from feeling the allergic reaction. Several vets have tried to push this on me, but she doesn’t have atopic dermatitis (allergy to pollen, dust, etc.). Sophie is allergic to flea bites. Boy is she.

What does help is a flea and tick killing spray called Nature Care that Walmart carries. Chewy also carries this line of products. I use that in combination with Comfortis. I have sprayed carpet, upholstered furniture, and of course Sophie before she goes out. It not only kills fleas (which you will see before your eyes if one walks into a sprayed area), it also kills flea eggs. In addition, adult fleas don’t like the peppermint smell and it keeps them off a dog that is walking outside.

She also has had cataracts growing since I got her. They were not a problem, and now they are. She can’t see much any more. We’ve always gone for a 3/4 mile walk twice a day. We went down to a 1/4 mile walk twice a day for a few days. She trusted me completely to see that she didn’t run into anything outside. I’m her seeing-eye-person. But outside noises, such as a loud vehicle, unnerve her. She gets around very well in the house she knows so well. She jumps into my chair, then up onto its back…no problem.

After only a few days as her seeing-eye-person, I knew this would not do. I phoned the Animal Eye Clinic in Orange Park, Florida and Sophie has an appointment for a consultation next week. I’m slightly  concerned about Sophie going under anesthesia for the surgery. She is in excellent health at 11 1/2 years of age. She came  through a dental cleaning last year with her regular veterinarian with flying colors. I’m praying for cataract removal with no problems and that’s what I’m expecting. Please pray for Sophie in the next few weeks. Bless you.

Warm Greek Pasta Salad ~ yum

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The Finish!

I saw this recipe on a food website and the photo looked sooo good, but then the photos usually do. So, I said to myself, “Self, let’s try it”…and of course, I made some changes.

Note: I live alone and cook for one. However, I usually prepare food for two or three and freeze what I don’t eat for another meal. This recipe can be easily doubled.

So, let’s start with the warm part.

Boil water and cook 2 C of whole wheat pasta according to directions.

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Then, in a large skillet (I have a ceramic one I love that’s a semi-wok), liberally spray olive oil pan-spray,  saute 1/2 C roughly chopped red onion, 1 tsp minced garlic (I used the jarred variety), 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Cook until the onion begins to become translucent.

Add 1/2 a package of frozen chopped spinach (I used organic). When it appears to need more pan spray, I add 1/4 C water and let it steam. Also add 1/2 tsp jarred vegetable bouillon. I use very little salt and the bouillon has enough for me. Taste to see if you need to add salt. When thoroughly cooked, as seen above, add 4 tsp red wine vinegar and stir through. Turn off the burner and let it cool…but it will still be warm. Note: Don’t be afraid to taste as you cook. Professional cooks keep forks and spoons handy for tasting.

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Add the cooked whole wheat pasta to the spinach mixture. If you want to get rid of starch, first rinse the pasta with warm water, then add to skillet. (Note: I placed two portions into plastic containers. One I saved for later in the week, one I froze. Then later, when thawed and warmed, I would add the fresh ingredients.) But, this recipe if for the entire amount.

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Place entire amount of warm, cooked ingredients in serving dish large enough to add 1 C of sliced Kalamata olives, 2 chopped fresh plum tomatoes, [Note: You can use 1 1/2 C sliced cherry tomatoes. I think grape tomatoes are too small.] 2 Tbsp virgin olive oil (I used organic), 9 oz of crumbled feta cheese. Gently mix. That might seem like a lot of Feta, but it’s the protein for this dish.

This serves three for dinner, four for lunch. It can be easily doubled. You can serve it with a loaf of rustic bread. I don’t because I eat lowish/lower carb. Of course, if I have guests, I’d serve it with a loaf of bread and olive oil on the side to dunk the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pray for This Dear Lady ~ prayer for the sick

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L to R: Betty Lee and Moi, New Year’s Eve 2017

 

Betty Lee, a wonderful and dear 92-year-old southern belle is going for a procedure to lessen (hopefully to eliminate) the pain in her lower spine. In the last two months, the pain has increased tremendously. Please pray for her full recovery.

 

Betty has cried out in extreme pain.

19) Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. 20) He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions. ~ Psalm 107: 19-20 [New American Standard Bible]

 

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L to R: author Dalyn Woods and Betty Lee, New Year’s Eve 2017

 

Lord, I know that all healing is in You and comes from You. Please touch Betty Lee’s doctors and all staff involved in her procedure.  Please guide and use them in Betty Lee’s healing. Lord, I thank you that You love Betty Lee and have her best interests in Your heart. I am so thankful You are a lover and a healer. In fact, Lord, You are Love. I pray for Betty Lee in Jesus name. Amen.

Dental Check Ups ~ for doggie and kitty

 

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Beauty, the Queen of the house, and Sophie The Wonder Dog

Sophie, my 11 year-old Malti-Poo, and Beauty, my 12 year-old tortoise-shell cat, went for a dental cleaning. When I dropped them off, I placed my hand on the building and prayed for success in this surgery and for all the animals there, as well as staff.

The righteous care for the needs of their animals, ~ Proverbs 12:10 [New American Standard Bible]

The vet did blood work to make sure, since they are seniors, that they were healthy enough for the procedure. They were both in excellent health. Although a dental cleaning may not prolong the life of a pet, the lack of one can shorten it. Dental health is important in animals as it is in humans.

Sophie had a minor extraction. That would mean it wasn’t a major tooth like a canine. They both came through the procedure with flying colors. When I got them home, Sophie was thirsty and went straight to the water bowl. It took Beauty half-an-hour to get her land-legs under her due to anesthesia. That was too funny, but I wouldn’t laugh in front of her as she’s the dignified “Queen” of our house. Of course she is.

They both got canned food for dinner and Sophie has to eat canned food for about a week because she has self-dissolving stitches.

These procedures were something I had to budget for. They fall under good stewardship…care of my flock (so to speak).

So, we’re all home now with our other kitties and we’re getting back to normal…whatever that is. In our house normal can be elusive.