Bread of Thanksgiving

It’s a classic, and for a good reason. This Bread Stuffing recipe is the only one I use for occasions that involve turkey. Credit my stepson, the chef, for introducing it to me. While is a bit more complex than pulling stuffing out of a box, this one is worth the effort.

Ingredients:
2 baguettes, country, or sourdough bread
8 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more for baking dish
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
½ tablespoon freshly chopped sage
½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Directions:
1. Tear or slice bread into cubes and leave out overnight to dry out. (Or, spread bread pieces on baking sheets and bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes).
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a large baking dish. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add onion and celery and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Stir in remaining 5 tablespoons butter and parsley. 
4. Place bread in a large bowl. Add the skillet mixture and chicken broth.
5. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake until cooked through, 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 15 more minutes until bread is golden. Garnish with parsley before serving.

The year 2020 will be remembered by many for its many challenges. It is good to pause and express gratitude to God for His many blessings. Whether you are sitting across a table from your loved ones, or dining together via a video conference, remember to give thanks to God, our Creator.  

“Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”

Psalm 106:1

Faithful Endurance

I was raised in the USA by two parents who shared a goal to usher me into adulthood before they passed away. That objective most likely stemmed from the fact that both of them endured the stinging loss of a parent early in their lives. 

At the age of six, dad lost his mom along with a two-year-old brother; his first stepmother died the following year. His second stepmother, along with his father, raised him to adulthood. My mother lost her father when she was four years old and was unable to attend his funeral because she had no shoes. Her mother, who did not speak English, relocated with four children under the age of six to a different state where a cousin helped her find employment. 

Both of my parents were children of immigrants who left Europe for America as events leading up to World War I were building toward that global disaster. I am grateful for their sacrifices. Because of their courage and tenacity, I live in a country that, so far, is built on a foundation of freedom.

Unlike many others, I was blessed to be raised in a family that valued high ethical standards and worked to instill them in their children. The stories from my parents’ youth permeated my childhood, along with lessons about standing strong in the face of adversity, respecting civil laws along with those in authority, and facing life’s challenges with courage and perseverance. It is a testimony to my parents that when they passed away, my siblings and I were more concerned about one another’s emotional needs than anything of monetary value we might obtain from their estate. 

We do not get to choose our time or place of birth; God does. It is no accident that I was born into a family such as mine at a time such as this. I am exactly where my Heavenly Father intended me to be, gifted with the exact abilities I need to fulfill His purpose through me. With this awareness, I come before the Lord asking for His continued blessing over our nation. He remains faithful even though we as a nation have turned our back to Him. It is time to repent.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

The Lovin’ Soupful

Dad could do anything. At least, that’s the way I remember him. He made projects like rearranging interior walls and made constructing backyard playgrounds look like child’s play. There was one task that he was least inclined to take on: cooking. He had few exceptions to this rule. Fortunately, Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup made his “can do” list. 

Dad started by making a stock from leftover chicken and a mirepoix to create the base for a delicious soup. The best part was his homemade noodles. Nothing beats homemade when it comes to soup. Try your hand at making this soup, you’ll like it.

Step 1: I’ve learned a secret from a younger relative, Danielle, that makes the task easy for anyone. Fill a crock pot or similar device with leftover roast chicken bones, vegetable scraps, and some herbs. (I freeze scraps from cooking prep until I have enough to create this flavorful bone broth.) Add enough water to cover the contents, switch it on slow cook, and walk away for several hours. Voila’. When you return, a flavorful broth will be waiting for you to use.

Step 2: Use a large pot to sweat one large, diced onion. When the onion becomes soft and transparent, add one cup each of diced carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Add about one cup of diced cooked chicken and your strained broth. Toss in a handful of chopped parsley and/or thyme, rosemary, and basil. This entire step takes about 10 minutes.

Step 3: If you’re not so energetic, or just came home from work, use dry or frozen egg noodles from the grocery store. But if you are feeling inspired, make fresh egg noodles. To make noodles, measure one cup of flour into a bowl, add a pinch of salt, two egg yolks, and three tablespoons of water. Mix it up until a dough forms. Roll it out on a floured surface and cut into thin strips. Drop into boiling, salted water and cook until noodles float to the surface. (An alternative method to rolling the dough is to pinch small pieces of dough between your fingers and drop it into boiling, salted water.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer noodles to the soup pot. Adjust seasonings to taste.

That gives you a tasty dinner for a cold day in about fifteen minutes, not counting the time the stock was cooking while you were out doing whatever it is you do during the day. And, if you’re like me, you will be sitting down to a nutritious meal filled with warm memories from years gone by.

Timely Reminders

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

September is my birthday month. This one was significant not so much because my new age sports a zero, but for the many reminders that I am loved. During the past few weeks, I have been inundated with cute cards, unexpected gifts, and well wishes from family members and friends of all ages. My siblings even flew in from two different states to help me usher in this new decade. (Thanks, Dave, for arranging that). 

I believe birthdays are one of God’s ways to remind us that relationships are important. The times we have spent with people in the past influence their likelihood to connect with us in the present. He created us to live in fellowship with others, and to enjoy this life as best we can.

These reminders also serve as a guiding light for the future. The way I interact with my grandson will affect his future, not only with me but with everyone he meets throughout life. The example I set for him today will serve to mold his outlook on the world, and more importantly, on his relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s all about bringing glory to God.

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children.”
Proverbs 17:6

It’s an important calling, this grandparent thing. But I’m loving it every step of the way. And that is one timely reminder.

A Slice of the Ol’ Apple

Baking Apples From the U of M Apple House

One of the family traditions I’ve carried through the years is making late-summer apple slices. They’re as simple as making apple pie, except this treat is baked in a jelly-roll pan instead of a pie pan. That does mean double everything, which is always a win with my family. Here’s how to do it:

Bottom Crust:
Mix up dough for a Standard 10” pie crust (enough for top and bottom crust). Use your favorite recipe, or try this one:
2-⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
7 to 8 tablespoons of ice water
Measure flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times. Add half of the shortening and pulse. Add the remaining shortening and pulse until mixture forms a mealy consistency. Sprinkle water one tablespoon at a time into the mix through the feed tube until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Cut a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the size of a jelly roll pan and lightly dust the surface. Flour the surface of your rolling pin and roll the dough on the parchment to an even consistency, large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan with a little left over to crimp. Slide the parchment with the crust onto the pan. Use scrap pieces of dough to patch any holes. Pretty doesn’t matter; the bottom crust will not be seen. Set aside.

Filling:
16 cups thinly sliced, peeled, and pared tart apples
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons nutmeg
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Mix it all together and spread it onto the bottom crust in the jelly roll pan. Dot the surface with 6 tablespoons of butter.

Top Crust:
Repeat what you did to make dough for the bottom crust. When it’s ready, either place the entire sheet of dough on top of the apple mixture (poke holes in the crust to allow steam to escape), or cut the dough into strips to make a lattice top. I like the lattice route. It looks pretty and is easier for me to achieve. Plus, you get enough leftover dough to make an extra pie shell. Pinch the edges around the perimeter to pretty it up. 

Trim away any excess parchment paper that might be sticking out around the sides of the pan. Slide the entire jelly roll pan onto the middle rack of a preheated 425 degree oven and slide a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack below it to catch any wayward drips. Give it about 40 to 50 minutes to bubble up and turn toasty brown. Cool on a baking rack. 

Icing:
To top it off, stir together 2 cups of confectioners sugar, a dash of salt, 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla and just enough milk (about 4 to 6 tablespoons) to make a runny icing; add milk one tablespoon at a time until you like what you see. Drizzle this mixture onto the apple slices and step aside to save yourself from getting run over by a stampede of hungry humans. Maybe while they’re fighting over the corner pieces you can score some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream to make the deal even sweeter than it already is.

Enjoy! And be sure to let me know how your Apple Slices turn out.

Let Your Faith Overcome Your Fears

Sometimes taking a stand for Christ is scary. But by faith we know God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were paralyzed with fright by its unknowns. Isolation became the norm as a measure to reduce the risk of catching the virus or infecting others. Fear and anxiety dominated social media discussions. God’s Word tells us something different.

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Philippians 4:6 NIV

Despite some trepidation, my husband and I decided to share God’s message of hope with those around us, while complying with all COVID-19 safety precautions. I constructed a rustic cross and painted the words, “Faith over Fear” across its front. My husband secured the cross prominently to the front of our house, clearly visible from the street. The response was unexpected.

Through our front window, I could see cars slow down as they drove by and riders turned their heads toward our cross. Neighbors smiled and waved as they passed by. One lady who hardly spoke to us made a point of complimenting our cross. A man from a nearby neighborhood stopped to commend our boldness in sharing this message of hope. Our grandson saw a young boy placing rocks hand-painted with images of trees and hearts on our sidewalk.

All these things happened because we chose to boldly proclaim our faith in God despite what was happening in the world. The biggest blessing for us is that our grandson witnessed God’s response to faith in action. God can be trusted to be true to His Word. It is a beautiful reminder to let hope in Christ overcome any fears we have on earth.

Quick Chicken Meatball Meal

A Grandkid-Tested Recipe

Sometimes I get tired of trying to figure out new ways to prepare chicken, especially with the added challenge of making it appeal to a child with limited food preferences. This dilemma resulted in the creation of a new recipe that may be the easiest way I know to cook a winning meal in 15 minutes. Get ready to roll!

Boil water to make four servings of pasta noodles, such as penne, farfalle, or rotini, according to directions. I like to sneak in some veggies by tossing a handful or two of broccoli tops into the boiling water during the final five minutes of cooking. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta and broccoli. 

While the pasta is doing its thing, pull out your food processor. Toss in:

  • One pound of cubed, raw chicken
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped onion (about one medium onion)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 cloves (to your preference) garlic, smashed, peel removed 
  • One or two large handfuls of fresh, roughly chopped  basil (for extra pizazz, add a sprig of rosemary leaves stripped from the stem)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Pulse the blender until everything is mixed together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This will take about one minute. Shape the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and fry in a pan with a small amount of olive or other oil. 

Add cooked pasta and broccoli to the pot. Add about ½ cup of Parmesan and a small amount of the pasta cooking water to create a bit of a sauce. Stir, adding more water, if needed. Toss in the meatballs and blend.

Divide into bowls and serve. I like to garnish the plates with a sprig or a chiffonade of basil for fun (that’s a fancy way of saying chop a few basil leaves into thin strips and sprinkle them on top of the pasta dish).

Trust me, this is a winner. And, of course, ask God to bless your dinner time together before you dig in.

Rise and Dine

A Grandkid-Tested Recipe from Barb Howe

My mother was known as a wonderful baker. Saturdays during my childhood typically began with the aroma of yeast rising on the kitchen counter and ended with oven-warm treats. Decades have passed since then, yet the scent of freshly baked bread always reminds me of Mom. I stood on a chair to reach the counter next to her as I learned the craft of bread making under her careful instruction.

Recently, I began experimenting with her original recipe (shown below) to include health benefiting fiber and incorporate tasty, fresh herbs from my garden. The results have been outstanding. A few simple adjustments to her original recipe yield a plethora of different flavors and uses, from herb and onion bread to better tasting hamburger buns than any I have found at the grocery store. 

Try her recipe out for yourself. Below is the Original Recipe that Mom used. Contact me via the link for some of my Grandkid-Tested Detours.

Ahh! There are days when homemade bread makes this grandma feel like a kid again. Thanks, Mom!

Original Recipe for Sweet Yeast Dough

Mix together in a medium size bowl and set aside:
2 packages dry yeast (4-1/2 teaspoons)
¼ cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 teaspoon sugar

In a large bowl, combine:
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt

Pour over mixture:
1 cup scalded milk

When butter is dissolved and sugar and salt are incorporated, add:
2 eggs, well beaten
5 cups bread flour

Stir together and turn dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth. Form dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. 

Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk in a warm, draft free area. Punch down dough and shape it into a loaf. Let rise until doubled in bulk. 

Separate dough by half. Then separate each half into four equal parts and roll into long rolls. Braid the rolls together and tuck into a loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough to make a second loaf.

Allow to rise until doubled in bulk in a warm, draft free area. Bake about 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool and remove from pan to cool completely (Or, pull the braids apart and eat while warm the way I used to do.)

Ask for Grandkid-Tested Detours from Mom’s original bread recipe at barbhowe.org.

Take a Break

Photo by Barb Howe

It surprised me to count the number of grandparents I know who are involved with raising their grandchildren. I’m not talking about the ones who get to see them during occasional holiday visits. I’m talking about the ones who are on the front lines of child rearing, supporting their adult children. It’s a tough job to keep up with the energy level of anyone younger than 20 years of age when you’re sporting a crop of grey hair. 

Allow yourself to take a break. It’s a good idea for everyone involved, including those grandchildren. Breathe deeply, take in the splendor of all the good things God has given. Genesis reminds me that He placed the first man and woman in a garden, so gardens are where I like to be when rejuvenation is what I need. A large, public landscape garden near my home is where I go to find year-round periods of refreshment.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”
Psalm 62:5 

Visiting this place also reminds me that any challenges I am facing have already been resolved by the Creator of all things. It gives me pause to recall the many times He has carried me through trials of many kinds. My job is to allow Him to work in me, to continue the transformation of my heart, so I can be more like Jesus. It is a huge task.

His reward to me is the blessing of peace, joy, and love. Perhaps that is why, in the first chapter of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day. I believe he was demonstrating to us the need for periodic moments of down time. It’s as if He is telling us to “take a break” so we can be reminded that our grandchildren truly are a blessing from the Lord.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”
Psalm 116:7 

Read more posts at barbhowe.org.

Compare Notes

Photo courtesy of Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Admit it, the world we live in doesn’t always make sense. A quick glance at the news reminds us that our country is undergoing a long season of trepidation and rebellion. Given the conflicting deluge of messages thrust upon us daily, it’s nearly impossible to know what to believe. Thankfully, there is one source of information we can rely upon for absolute truth: the Bible. Eternal wisdom flows from its pages.  

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God,
keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations
of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Deuteronomy 7:9

We probably all have concerns for our grandchildren’s physical and spiritual well being. Having many decades of experience, we’re reminiscent of the Farmers Insurance ad tagline, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Our perspectives and collective wisdom are vital for these young ones. That old cliche’ reminding us “it takes a village to raise a child” hits home here. Please, allow God to be at the center of it all. 

It is a blessing to have friends that share the same concerns for their grandchildren as I do for my grandson. We support one another with prayer, encouragement, and advice, much as mothers of young children do amongst themselves. Think of it as comparing notes with other people whose ultimate goal aligns with yours: to spend eternity with our grandchildren and other believers in heaven. Be sure to bring a notebook the next time you meet.

 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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