Weekly Dish: Smoky Chicken Saltimbocca

I forgot to get prosciutto from the store on my last trip and Chicken Saltimbocca was on my menu. I needed something to use up the leftover sage from Thanksgiving, still, so improvising here we come. Plus, I’ve been watching a lot of “Master Chef” lately so I felt it necessary to mix it up.  And it was a hit.  Even my chicken hating 4-year-old loved this!

I termed it ‘smoky’ because of the addition of smoked bacon in exchange for the non-smoked prosciutto.

SMOKY CHICKEN SALTIMBOCCA

4 organic, boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon real salt or celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 slices nitrate-free, uncured bacon
12 sage leaves
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon organic, grass-fed butter (Kerrygold)

Dry chicken with paper towel. sprinkle spices onto both sides of the breasts. Wrap bacon around each slice, with the ends of the bacon ending up on the same side, ideally. Tuck 4 sage leaves into each breast, underneath the slices of bacon.

Heat olive oil and butter to Medium-High heat. Place 2 chicken breasts at a time into the pan, frying for 4-5 minutes on each side or until done, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts. You want the bacon and sage to be crispy, not limp, so adjust the heat accordingly.

Remove from heat and let rest for a few minutes to let juices redistribute before serving.

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Kombucha @ Home

Affectionately termed “rotten mushroom tea” by my father, this tea admittedly seems like a strange thing to voluntarily ingest.But when you learn of its incredible health benefits, and discover its surprisingly zippy and refreshing taste (think along the lines of hard apple cider), you, too will want to grow rotten mushroom tea on your kitchen counter. Warning: it will gross everyone out and make you a target to all those around. It will also delve you further into the “hippie” lifestyle and further away from the normalcy of all of your American friends. But it’s worth it.

The History
Kombucha originated in Russia. There it is called “mushroom tea” or “tea kvass” or just “kvass.” Though, it is unlike traditional kvass in that it is not made with bread at all.

The Basics
A mushroom really has nothing to do with it; it is called a SCOBY (“symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”). The tea is basically black tea (or another variety), white sugar and this SCOBY. Some call it a mushroom, some call it a culture. Most call it disgusting. As the tea sits on your countertop (or in a cupboard, etc…), the SCOBY will begin to feed on the sugar (yeast and bacteria Looooooove white sugar), removing all of the sugar from the tea and trading it for beneficial bacteria, live cultures, enzymes, acids. Each batch of Kombucha will produce an additional layer  or “baby”  SCOBY on the top of the original “mother” SCOBY. Separate them like you would separate two pancakes. These may be discarded, shared with friends, sold, or used for additional batches of Kombucha.

You wouldn’t think that white sugar and caffeinated tea could produce anything that would benefit health, but it is a curing drink, complete with toxic neutralizing qualities. It aids the immune system and assists the body in cleansing itself, not to mention being a cancer (and other degenerative disease) preventer!

(The culture eats up all of the white sugar so don’t let that concern you at all.)

Why Ferment?
When fermentation happens, there is an introduction of live organisms. You have approximately 3-5 pounds of live organisms inside your body at this very moment. Don’t get too grossed out; they are supposed to be there. There are bad organisms (pathogens) and good organisms (beneficial bacteria). You should have more good than bad. Pathogens, when out of control, cause disease and sickness. Good bacteria’s job is to keep the bad bacteria under control and in check, flushing them out of our system along with toxins and harmful substances we ingest or breathe in every day. Fermentation adds to the colonization of good bacteria, keeping our body healthy and able to fight off infection, pathogens, toxins, etc…

Traditional cultures, going back to probably the beginning of time, have fermented their foods and drinks. Some examples of this: Fermented Cod Liver oil, yogurt, kefir, and many vegetables and fruits. We are unaccustomed to this taste and it is a bit foreign to our palates. But give it a chance! Let it grow on you (or in you. I had to…). Let yourself develop a taste for something that can impart such benefits to your immune system as a whole.

People spend loads of money on quality probiotics. You can make Kombucha (and yogurt, and fermented vegetables, etc…) for literally pennies.

Because of the fermentation, there is approximately .5% or less alcohol in this tea, which means that it is technically a non-alcoholic beverage. The longer fermentation goes and the less sweet the tea becomes, the more alcohol it will have in it.

There are variations of flavors and teas for Kombucha. You may use other teas, but black tea has the highest amount of glucuronic acid, which is the detoxifying agent in the tea. Other teas impart drastically different flavors, but you can also achieve this by adding fruit, fruit juices, or ginger at the end of fermentation, after you have removed the SCOBY.

Now for the recipe:

KOMBUCHA

3 quarts filtered water
1 Cup white sugar
4 tea bags of organic black tea
1/2 cup Kombucha from a previous batch
1 Kombucha SCOBY

Boil 3 quarts water. Pour boiling water over the sugar and tea bags in a glass jar/pitcher. Let tea cool to room temperature. Remove tea bags with a very clean spoon or hands washed with soap and rinsed with vinegar. Add the 1/2 cup Kombucha and the SCOBY pancake into the jar. Cover the jar loosely with a cloth so that the tea can breathe and transfer to a warm, dark place. Depending on the temperature of the space you have chosen to let it culture, it could take anywhere from 7-14 days for the tea to be ready. Taste the Kombucha. It should not be too sweet but shouldn’t taste too acidic, like vinegar, either.

Notes:

  • It is important to use white sugar as this is what feeds the yeast. Do not substitute with brown sugar, honey, stevia, sucanat/rapadura, maple syrup, etc…)
  • It is important to use organic tea. Non-organic tea is often high in flouride.
  • Black tea gives the highest amounts of detoxifying glucuronic acid.
  • Store mushrooms in a glass dish in the refrigerator when not in use. Do not ever store it in plastic.

I am sharing this post at Real Food Wednesday.

Fruit From the Vine: Would You Be Thankful If…

While taking a shower, I found myself complaining in my heart a little that the water wasn’t quite hot enough. It was almost there but I like the water so hot that it just about burns my skin. I then realized I was being completely fickle because a lot of the world doesn’t have hot water at an immediate turn of a knob like I do. Well, a lot of the world doesn’t even have water pumped by electricity. And a lot of the world doesn’t even have water to bathe in. Let alone, water to drink! So I began to thank God. “Thank you God for the blessing of hot water. For the blessing of water. Period.”

I began to think of something I have been sporadically doing, my thankfulness journal. Another idea that we had for our family was to make a blessing jar where everyone can add a written blessing to the jar throughout the year, reflecting on the blessing we have received from God, and then we read them at year end. These ideas are great and I think they can give you eyes to see the little things around you that are God’s blessings. They are a great remedy to a complaining spirit. However, in our egocentricity, it often stops here! We are so thankful for God’s gifts. But we forget that GOD gave them. HE is the giver and the goal and the end of all our wants.

I am concerned for myself and for many. If I didn’t have any hot water, or didn’t have any water at all for that matter, would I still be thankful? Not for God’s blessings, but for God Himself? If I were visited by trial like Job or had a thorn in my flesh the Lord would not remove, like Paul, would I still be thankful? If there was literally nothing to be thankful for in my life, would I still be thankful? Because there are many who don’t have the things I have to be thankful for… yet they are still able to thank God and are truly thankful. Because they have HIM.

I would love to use scripture to expound here. And I started to. But then I read a few pages from John Piper’s book, “God is the Gospel.” I can’t put things like Piper can. I must add his words here as they hit home for me on this Thanksgiving. In a few paragraphs, you will see how we are to regard the Gospel as the gift of God Himself over and in all His saving and painful gifts (and pleasant gifts, too):

“The gospel has unleashed the omnipotent mercy of God so that thousands of other gifts flow to us from the gospel heart of God. I am thinking of a text like Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” This means that the heart of the gospel—God’s not sparing his own Son—is the guarantee that “all things” will be given to us. All things? What does that mean? It means the same thing that Romans 8:28 means: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God takes “all things” and makes them serve our ultimate good. It doesn’t mean we get everything our imperfect hearts want. It means we get what’s good for us.

Compare this with Philippians 4:19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Every need! Does that mean we never have hard times? Evidently not. Seven verses earlier Paul said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger,abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vv. 12-13).  This is amazing. God meets “every need” (v. 19).

Therefore, I have learned how to face “hunger” and “need” (v. 12). I can do “all things” through him who strengthens me—including be hungry and be in need! I conclude from this that for Christians everything we need—in order to do God’s will and magnify him—will be supplied. 

According to Romans 8:32 this was secured by the gospel. It is stated even more strikingly in Romans 8:35-37. Here the love of Christ guarantees that we will be more than conquerors in every circumstance, including the circumstance of being killed.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Astonishing! We are more than conquerors as we are being killed all day long! So nothing can separate us from Christ’s love, not because Christ’s love protects us from harm, but because it protects us from the ultimate harm of unbelief and separation from the love of God.  

The gospel gift of God’s love is better than life. “Neither death nor life …will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). In fact, not only can death not separate us from the love of God, it is, along with every other hardship, a gospel gift. Listen to the way Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” All things are yours—including death! Death is included in our treasure chest of gifts from God through the gospel.

So in one text Paul says that we are “more than conquerors” in death. And in another text he says that all things are ours, including death. I take him to mean that because of the truths of Romans 8:28 and 8:32 God takes every hardship and makes it serve us, including death. Death is “ours”—our servant. The fact that we are “more than conquerors” means that death doesn’t just lie dead at our feet after the battle—it is taken captive and made to serve us.

And how does death serve us? How does the blood-bought servitude of death bless the children of God? Paul answers, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”(Phil. 1:21). Why is dying gain? He answers two verses later: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Being with Christ after death is “far better” than staying on earth. That is why we are more than conquerors when death seems to triumph. It becomes a door to better fellowship with Christ. 

Because of the gospel, God promises to “give us all things” with Christ (Rom. 8:32). The “all things” turns out to include not just pleasant things but terrible things like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and death. These are all gospel gifts purchased for us by the blood of Christ. 

Death is a gift because it takes us more quickly to the great good of the gospel—seeing and savoring the glory of God in the face of Christ. What about these other gifts—tribulation, distress, and so on? How are they benefits that are bought by the gospel? How are they part of the “all things” in Romans 8:32 and 28 and Philippians 4:13? The answer is that in the merciful sovereignty of Christ, empowered by his own blood, these sufferings accomplish the greatest good of the gospel, a more pure and authentic and deeply satisfying seeing and savoring of God in Christ. 

…This is not the design of the devil. It is the design of God. Paul’s life-threatening suffering was designed by God to keep him close to God. The aim of the gospel is not an easy life. It is deeper knowledge of God and deeper trust in God. God did not spare his own Son. Therefore all things are yours— “the world or life or death (or thorns in the flesh or life-threatening persecution) all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” These are gospel gifts because by the blood of Christ they help bring about the goal of the gospel. This goal is not our ease or wealth or safety in this age, but our dependence on Christ and our delight in his glory.”

I treasure this. My heart rests here. Not because it is easy to read or believe, but because it is true. And I am full of thanks for this Truth– whose Name is Jesus.

Book Review: Humility

Out of all of the books on spiritual qualities I have ever read (discipline, devotion, etc…), I felt that this one gave me the clearest picture of the heart of God as I have ever seen. I was more aware than ever of my pride, yet more encouraged than ever to look to Jesus, Humility embodied.

I especially appreciated the chapters in Part 3 of the book: The Practice of Humility. How to be practically humble. For example, how to wake up and submit yourself immediately to overcoming pride, how to go about your day in humility, how to go to bed humble, look for graces in others instead of criticisms and faults, how to encourage one another.

Convicting was the chapter on responding humbly to trials. The need to be God-centered, not man-centered, self-centered, pleasure-centered, convenience centered or ease centered, is great. To look on God and Him alone in the midst of trials, produces immediate humility. Pride cannot dwell where God dwells.

The overall theme of the book, really, is expressing your need and dependence upon God. Acknowledging His greatness, and our non-greatness. Acknowledging that we are great sinners but he is a greater Savior. There is no possible way for humility to fly out the window and pride to creep in when we are submitted to, focused on and fixed on our Great God.

I really appreciate C.J. Mahaney’s heart, his God-given gift for writing and preaching, and his love for God and for God’s people. It is shown very clearly through his writing in this book.

Verdict: It is a small book, 163 half-pages of text, and highly recommended for your library. I will re-read it every year.

Weekly Dish: Fuzzy Caterpillars

 

This one’s for the kids! My 4-year old couldn’t wait to bite the heads off of them. Yes, he is a boy.

Fuzzy Caterpillars

  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 8 raisins/dark chocolate/carob chips
  • 4 cashews

Peel bananas. Spread almond butter over the entire banana and roll in the coconut. Cut in half to make 4 caterpillars. Add 2 raisin “eyes” and one cashew “smile” to each one.