Menu Plan Monday








I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I put Sunday at the beginning of the week. Since I don’t post this until Monday, that presents a problem. Oh well, to be fixed for next week…

This week I am testing 3 appetizer recipes. It is for someone who is writing a REAL food cookbook on appetizers and they needed taste testers in exchange for a free copy of the cookbook when it comes out. I will let you know how it turns out!

Meals for November (week 1)

Friday Fruit from the Vine: Get Real

Have you ever really read Matthew 5? I know I have before, and was really paying attention. But for some reason, this time it was like looking into Lake Tahoe- I felt like I could see the bottom, the waters were so crystal clear!

In the past, I have noticed the different themes Jesus is touching on: Anger, Divorce, Lust, Oaths, Retaliation, Loving your enemies. But when you read it without creating sections and themes, when you read it as Jesus spoke it to His disciples with the backdrop of the Pharisees, you see that Jesus is really just talking about one thing. STOP THE RELIGIOSITY. STOP THE OUTWARD MORALITY. GET REAL!

We think, or at least I do sometimes, that we’re doing pretty good. We don’t do this or that. And we DO this good thing and that great thing. However, if we will allow this text to lead us to repentance, we will see that Jesus ups the ante enough to condemn each one of us. And then he tops it of with a demand of perfection: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” and “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

With these raised standards, who can attain? Who can be that perfect? Not me. Obviously not even the scribes and Pharisees, to which he referred. So who? NO ONE. NO ONE is justified in His sight.

I do lust sometimes. I certainly get angry. And I seldom can justify it as being “righteous anger.” I haven’t ever been divorced, but I’ve certainly wanted to. Lusted after it, in moments. Woahhh, killed two birds with one stone, there. I have taken oaths and broken oaths. I have retaliated. And I don’t love my enemies. I have a hard enough time loving my family and friends.

So how can I come before God?

Go from Matthew 5 to Romans 5.

“Therefore, since we have been JUSTIFIED by faith, we have peace with God THROUGH our Lord JESUS Christ.”

The only way I can stand perfect before a perfect Father is Jesus.

And today, I sing,

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His word…

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!”

He who justified us, who we trust to present us as perfect before a holy God, is trustworthy for all things. So get real with others and get real with Him today. Not real good, or real moral, or real religious or real presentable. Just get real with Jesus! He presents you before the Father BLAMELESS!

Book Review: Crazy Love

This book was pretty great. I don’t really know if it needs a review, since I’m pretty sure most have read it, so I’ll just write a little blip on it.

I started the first few chapters with “yeah, yeah, this is good, but not earth-shaking.” Then I got a few chapters in where he starts talking about what a person that is Obsessed with Jesus looks like. I was convicted, encouraged, and inspired to give more of my life for Jesus, be open to doing whatever he would ask, that my life my be characterized by obsession with the Savior.

What I think is a little strange, though, is how many I know have read the book and rave about it but their lives don’t even come close to living up to what he (and the Bible) calls for. This could be said of myself, as well. Francis Chan is an intense guy, I’m sure just in personality, but also in his devotion and love for Jesus and his willingness to forsake ALL to love Him and be more and more obedient and more and more like Him. So when I see others who think Francis Chan is so great, but then they themselves live such in such mediocrity, I wonder what Chan would say to their face if he looked at their life. I think I know what he would say… he would say: “Don’t just read Crazy Love, do what it says! (as it points to Jesus)” Or better yet: “Don’t read the Bible, do what it says!”

And so that is my book review/exhortation to you. Read this book. But PLEASE don’t JUST read it. Use it as an example of how to live passionate, selfless, sacrificial, and obsessed lives for Jesus.

Weekly Dish: Latino-Style Chicken and Rice (Arroz Con Pollo) with Bacon and Roasted Red Pepper

A little twist on traditional Arroz Con Pollo. Who doesn’t love bacon?!

Latino-Style Chicken and Rice (Arroz Con Pollo)
with Bacon and Roasted Red Pepper

6 garlic cloves, minced
1 T plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Ground black pepper
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh/leg combo (or equivalent with just thighs or just legs), extra fat trimmed off the skin (so as to make the dish not so greasy)
4 strips nitrate-free bacon (can buy at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market)
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 small red pepper, stemmed, seeded, chopped fine
1 medium carrot
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 15oz. can tomato sauce
water (to bring the tomato sauce to a full 2 cups)
2 cups medium-grain brown rice
1/2 cup roasted red peppers

Preheat oven to 350.

Place garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Add 1 Tablespoon of the vinegar, organo, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine. Place chicken in the bowl with the marinade. Coat chicken pieces evenly and set aside for 15 minutes.

Fry bacon, cut into 1/2-inch peices, in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; pour off all but 1 Tablespoon bacon fat.

Add onion, red pepper, carrot, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies begin to soften, 4-8 minutes. Add 2 T cilantro, stir to combine. Push veggies to the side and increase heat to M-H. Add chicken to the clearing in the center of the pot, skin side down. Cook, without moving the chicken, until the outer layer of meat becomes opaque, 2-4 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken and cook on other side until opaque, 2-4 minutes more. Add broth, tomato sauce and water; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer; cover, reduce heat to M-L and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add rice, 3/4 tsp. salt and stir well. Bring a simmer, cover and place pot in the oven. After 20 minutes, remove pot from oven and stir chicken and rice once from bottom up. Cover and return to oven. After another 20 minutes, stir once more, adding another 1/4 water if the rice appears dry and the bottom of pot is beginning to burn. Cover and return to oven; cook until rice has absorbed all the liquid and is tender and chicken reads 175 degrees.

Using tongs, remove chicken. Remove and discard skin. Shred and place chicken in a bowl and toss with 1 Tablespoon oil, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 2 Tablespoons cilantro, and the roasted red peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place chicken on top of the rice in the pot, cover and let stand until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Serve, passing lemon or lime wedges separately.

(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

Activators for Kids Health

“Activation is supplying the body with herbal remedies and foods which give the body’s energy a boost so that it will be able to complete the healing process. …we merely supply raw materials and an environment which supports the body in doing its own healing.” —The ABC Herbal by Steven H. Horne

When my kids are starting to show signs of possible sickness, we do a few things to help their little immune systems fight off whatever is attacking it. One of these things is using “activators.” There are many different ones you can use, but some of the easiest and least “hippie-ish” are: peppermint, elderberry, chamomile, ginger, cinnamon, and garlic.

Peppermint: Straight peppermint is an excellent activator and children can drink it as a tea, warm or cold. Buy bulk peppermint at the health food store and make into a tea. Strain and add a few drops of stevia or honey (optional). You can also use some Peppermint Essential Oil or Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap in a hot bath or shower and make sure you lather it on their lymph nodes- under their armpits, on their chest, on the neck (making sure not to get it in their eyes…. oh does it burn…) and leave it on for a little bit until it “feels cold” as my child says. This can clear up congestion once it sets in and even prevents it from ever forming into anything significant at all!
Ginger: Great as a “tea,” same as with peppermint. Grate or cut off a few small pieces, put in boiling water and add a few drops of honey.
Elderberry: Of course you can always make your own glycerite, but if you’re not into that, you can buy Elderberry tincture or Elderberry syrup at the health food store. Or buy the whole elder berries and add to oatmeal, pancakes, etc…
Chamomile: Helps to settle the stomach and calm the nerves.
Cinnamon: Add to foods
Garlic:  add to foods (guacamole), crush, mince and swallow with water or honey on a spoon (just a little at a time to prevent a tummy-ache). Do a garlic enema (Puree a clove of garlic in a little water. Strain it into an emptied out disposable enema bottle. Use enema, repeat as necessary. Easiest way to get raw garlic into a kid when they are sick and/or constipated!)

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: References

Vaccinations. I know this is a super HOT topic as of late. Not many other topics, maybe besides Jesus and politics, cause such division between friends and family! Most people have strong opinions on the matter and are polarized on either side of the debate. It is VITAL to be informed on all sides, knowing the risks as well as the benefits, what Dr.’s and health experts say, what the side-effects and long term consequences are, and what your rights and responsibilities are as a parent. Also in some of these books is information on adult vaccinations (tetanus, flu shots, etc…)

After much personal research, we have chosen not to vaccinate at all, ever. Here are a few of the books I used as my guide (and still use as reference and re-reading material):

Vaccinations, a Thoughtful Parents Guide

This book was pretty good for those who are on the fence. Gives  a middle of the road approach. Good for information on both sides of the debate when you’re just starting out.

Vaccines, Are They Really Safe and Effective?

The best book for short and sweet answers to each vaccine and their potential problems. Also shows charts and graphs of disease rates declining before vacinnes are introduced. My #1 recommendation for parents just entering the vaccine controversy.

How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor

This book just touches on the vaccine issue and delves into many other issues, as well. A great one to keep on the shelf for reference when it comes to your child’s health. Written from a pediatricians point of view, it is helpful to hear what he saw in his years of actually giving vaccines and what he, as an MD, thinks is necessary and what you should pass on.

Raising a Vaccine Free Child

Despite the truly terrible book cover, this was the most informative, comprehensive book! Though not written by a doctor or health professional, she is a parent and researcher who chose not to vaccine BEFORE there was mainstream controversy over the issue… and in another country where diseases were prevalent. Once we had decided not to vaccinate, this was the mortar to fill in the cracks.

Do you have any favorites??

Fruit From the Vine: Body Parts


Did you know that we aren’t just individually God’s dwelling place? I know most of us will say, “our bodies are temples of the Lord” (and usually to deter kids from smoking or something equally insignificant (by comparison). But did you know that WE, the CHURCH, are His temple?  The Church, the community of believers, is so incredibly important. TELL ME the church isn’t important and I’ll show you 100 verses just like the verses below that will say otherwise. TELL ME you can love God just as much out in nature as you can by going to church and I will agree. If by going to church you mean showing up to a building on the first day of the week, living life like an anti-Christ all week long up until the moment you step foot in the church doors, then putting on a fake front, getting a muffin and receiving from the music and the message, like the little consumer you are. Yes, then you can do that hypocrisy and worthlessness out in the woods by yourself, too. Or at home or with family, for that matter. But if you mean that you are able to grow, to witness, to glorify, to proclaim, to worship, to sharpen, to obey, to give thanks, to humble yourself, to exhort, to exalt… if that is what you mean by ‘love God,’ then nope. You can’t do that anywhere but in a community of believers.

I know here someone is going to give the example of Paul in prison. Or John on the Island of Patmos. You don’t really want to go there, do you? You aren’t really presuming or stating that you are on equal footing with Paul the Apostle or John the Beloved, are you?  And why were they there, anyway? Oh, right, because they were worshipping God, sharing the gospel, being witnesses out in the world– among a community of other believers.

And you really can’t use them as examples of growing in isolation anyway because look at those four verses that Paul exhorts the Ephesians church with. Well, first of all, he’s writing to a church, which should be our first clue of the Church’s importance. Secondly, look at his language:

“…you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you [all- you is plural here] are FELLOW CITIZENS with the saints and MEMBERS of the HOUSEHOLD of God… in whom the whole structure, being JOINED TOGETHER, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built TOGETHER into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19, 21-22
“so that through the CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10
“to him be glory in the CHURCH and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21
“from whom the whole BODY, JOINED and held TOGETHER by every JOINT with which it is equipped, when each PART is working properly, makes the BODY grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:16
Words like church, body, fellow, joined together, joint, part. Those words imply connection. They imply community. They don’t allow for the idea of isolation.

God makes his wisdom known to the angelic beings by way of the church. The Church is so dysfunctional most of the time, which makes it pretty hard to imagine why God would use us– collective us– as his means. But it is God’s wisdom, not ours. So there is no place for you to put your wisdom above his and say you don’t need the Church. Or for you to just GO to church.

If an early church father thought that we could grow in isolation, that we could be the church without any accountability, without anyone to speak into our lives, without the availability of exhortation and encouragement, then why did he speak about parts of a body and joints connecting things? Why did he say that the body grows and builds itself up? Why didn’t he speak to an individual believer and say, “as you read the word and pray, you are built up in love.” The church is God’s instrument to display his glory. The Church can only be the church if it is functioning properly. The church, when functioning properly, grows and builds itself up. This doesn’t happen alone. This won’t happen to you while you remain isolated. This won’t happen if you remain invulnerable,  put walls up and don’t let anyone in. This won’t happen even with you just “attending” a church. Like it’s something to check off a list.

So connect, become part of a church BODY. Be a part that works properly. Contribute to the building up of God’s dwelling place. Get involved. Don’t show up on a Sunday morning late to worship and then leave after you have made small talk with one person you don’t know and chatted with your friends about everything– everything but Jesus. Make connections with other believers. Do life alongside one another. Eat meals, share the gospel, repent, see Jesus.

Don’t just GO to church, BE the church.

Book Review: The Reason For God

The Reason for God by Tim Keller is truly an incredible book. Written primarily to the skeptic, it acknowledges and gives answers to some of the most common objections to Christianity, to Jesus, in an anything-but-dry manner.

The book is for believers, too.  In the introduction, he speaks of  two camps: liberalism and conservatism, progressives and fundamentalists, unbelievers and believers, skeptics and those of faith. But he says there is a third camp, “Christians who [have] a concern for justice in the world but who [ground] it in the nature of God rather than in their own subjective feelings.” He calls believers to wrestle with their doubts, to confront them instead of ignoring them. “A faith without some doubts is like a human body with any antibodies in it.” People who don’t “ask hard questions about why the believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.”

This book is intellectually challenging but still manages to reach the heart of the matter and to touch your own heart in the process, bringing you closer to God’s heart and the object of our faith: Jesus!

Verdict: Excellent. (Quality on literally every page!)

Weekly Dish: Lentil Chili

No beans in this household at the moment. But it’s Fall and who does Fall without Chili??? So here is a seriously delicious version of traditional Chili. (Of course, you can always just make your own Chili recipe and replace the beans with Lentils)


1-2 T Butter and/or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped or sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped or sliced
6-7 C chicken broth, homemade
2 1/4 C Lentils, soaked overnight in enough water to cover
1 28oz. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/4 Cup cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

Method: Saute onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery in saucepan over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on medium-low until lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and cook 10 more minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper as needed.

[You can also saute all the vegetables and then add the whole thing to the Slow Cooker and cook on low for 4 hours or so.]

Top with a squeeze of lime, cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Serve!

Add-ins or Variations:

Use Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
Add a few Chipotle peppers in Adobo
Add a Sweet Potato
Add Mushrooms
Add Beans and/or Corn
Add Meat
Add Green Chiles or Roasted Peppers


I am sharing this post at Real Food Wednesday!