New Year, New Commitment…to Healthy Food

This morning I was flipping through the hotel TV channels. We live in Eastern time now, so the shows I was used to listening to in Denver after David left for work weren’t on yet. But 7 (yes, 7!) “Christian” shows were. You know the ones–someone is sitting behind a desk talking to no one, and there isn’t an HD camera in sight.

On two different channels I heard something along the lines of, “Paul said that our bodies are temples for God, so we must eat ‘right’ to honor Him. Commit to be healthier this year so you are ‘right’ with God!” Both times I rolled my eyes and kept clicking. Why? Because those so-called Bible teachers read one verse:

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. (1 Corinthians 6:19, The Voice)

and completely ignored its context:

Don’t you realize that your bodies are members of the Anointed One? So should I take the members of the Anointed One and unite them to a prostitute? This illicit union should never take place! Don’t you understand that when your body is joined with a prostitute, the two of you have become one body? For as it says, “The two come together as one flesh.” But when you are joined with the Lord, you become one spirit with Him. Run from immoral behavior. All other sins are disconnected from the body, but sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. You have been purchased at a great price, so use your body to bring glory to God! (1 Corinthians 6:15-20, The Voice).

In this section of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is explaining to his readers that God’s grace does not exempt them from living holy lives. Christians cannot do with their bodies what their pagan neighbors do and still expect to have a spiritual union with the Holy Spirit. Paul gives two examples of detrimental behavior: eating food that has been sacrificed before pagan gods, and having sex with temple prostitutes. God will not share His temple (us) with other gods.

So you see, to boil Paul’s words down to a law requiring us all to be Size 2 misses the much bigger point and borders on heretical teaching.

Thankfully I don’t need a TV Bible teacher to tell me how important it is that I eat right and exercise. I want to be as healthy as I can be, so that I am ready to be a tool of God when He wants to use me.

This year, in this new city, I am committing to cooking healthier meals than we ate in Denver. (And I look forward to posting my new culinary exploits on this blog occasionally!) I also commit to exercising each morning.

There’s nothing on TV that early anyway.

BARREN Is Birthed

I love the “baby shoes” pictures my friends have made to announce their pregnancies.
This is our nonprofessional knock-off, courtesy of uncle-extraordinaire, Jason.

Over the last year or so, a LOT of people have said to me, “This book is like your baby.” I see their point. It certainly was “conceived.” It is part-David and part-me, although I got most of the attention during its “development” (and did most of the work!). I have looked forward to the day–this day–that it would arrive.

The analogy pretty much falls apart after that.

I thought I’d be over-the-moon excited today, but I’ve been gripped by fear. On a selfish surface level, I’m afraid it won’t sell. Not far below that, I’m deeply terrified that I’ve messed something up. And it’s way too late to make any edits.

Every chapter of the book ends with a Scripture passage. In the original outline of the book, I was only going to include Scripture in chapter 4; but as I wrote, God’s Word made its way into my head and onto the pages. So want it or not–fear it or not–I’m officially teaching interpretation of Scripture in Barren among the Fruitful.

The Apostle Paul had a particular disdain for false teachers. Writing to the Galatians, he explained that a fungus-sized untruth from one person can grow and push an entire city of believers away from God:

Who has impeded your progress and kept you from obeying the truth? You were off to such a good start. I know for certain the pressure isn’t coming from God. He keeps calling you to the truth. You know what they say, “Just a little yeast causes all the dough to rise,” so even the slightest detour from the truth will take you to a destination you do not desire. Despite this, I’m confident because the Lord reassures me that you will truly hear and take my message to heart. Besides, I also know that these troublemakers, whoever they are, will answer to God and be judged accordingly. (Galatians 5:7-10, The Voice)

I don’t want to be a “troublemaker.”

A few years before I even thought of writing this book, I found myself praying regularly, “God, please use me, but don’t let me get in Your way.” It’s almost become a mantra. I say those words (or some version of them) every time I talk with Him because I know selfish, sinful me would rather be working to accomplish my own goals instead of His will. I understood that as I was writing, so I prayed every moment I worked. I think it was more like raising a child than growing an embryo.

So today my book isn’t a baby; it’s fully grown and out of the house. I wonder if the fear I feel is akin to what parents experience when their children leave the nest. All I can do now is pray that as Barren encounters the world, God somehow uses it to introduce people to Him.

And hope I didn’t mess it up too much.

Even David Likes (Spaghetti) Squash

Thanks to David’s and my month-long trips out West, I don’t get to cook much food anymore; but two weeks ago, I was back in my old kitchen with my beloved cookware and a fresh batch of veggies. This time of year we basically get two types of vegetables: greens and winter squash. I had never heard of tatsoi and had no idea what to do with acorn squash before joining the CSA, but the Barefoot Farmer is great about giving us recipes along with our strange food, and the internet has been a big help too.

My favorite winter squash has become spaghetti squash. A 1-cup serving has only 42 calories and 10 carbohydrates. (Compare that to 1 cup of pasta: 221 calories and 43 carbohydrates.) There are a million ways to prepare it, but I usually roast it and serve it as if it were spaghetti noodles. The first time I did this I warned my husband and plied his favor with a side of yeast rolls. The treat wasn’t necessary; David likes spaghetti squash just as much as he likes pasta.

One day last month, my friend Michelle came to the house with her boys for a lunch date, and I served spaghetti squash with my made-from-CSA-veggies tomato sauce. It was a hit, and she asked me how she could do it at home. This is for you, Michelle, and everyone else out there who loves spaghetti but wants to reduce the carbohydrates in their diets!

  1. Line a cookie sheet with nonstick aluminum foil, and heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the squash in half along the “prime meridian” of the fruit, and scrape out the seeds.
  3. Lay the squash cut-side-down on the aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the fruit is soft.
  4. Cool the squash, cut-side-down.
  5. Use a fork to scrape out the “spaghetti” and drain it on a towel.
  6. Serve as desired.

I don’t put anything on the squash before roasting, but you can salt and pepper the raw squash, coat it in olive oil, and sprinkle on just about any herb before baking to infuse it with flavor. This time of year, rosemary and thyme are great choices.

David and I return South for the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend, and I can’t wait to make my Roasted-Butternut Praline Cheesecake for the family meals. What is your favorite seasonal recipe?

A Fishy Saturday (Part 3 of 3)

Daddy loved the oysters almost as much as
being served all night!

The problem with seafood meals is that you must eat everything as it is ready. You can’t keep fish warm without overcooking it. That means fish isn’t the best thing to serve when you have company over if you want to be a part of the party. My parents arrived about 5:15, just as David put the oysters in the oven and I was making the roux for the chowder. Daddy sat down at the table and chatted while Mama ran around helping us. We wouldn’t leave the kitchen for the whole evening.

The dinner was haphazard but delicious. After every course I’d jump up from the table and run to the kitchen to plate the next dish. The chowder took longer to cook than we anticipated, so we ended up having our soup after the main course. Nontraditional, sure, but it allowed us to eat everything exactly when it was ready.

By the time we’d finished eating about 7:15, none of us wanted to move.

So we stayed there…and played Canasta! Mama and I dominated for the first 4 rounds, but the boys had a major comeback on the last hand and won it all. At the start of that last hand, we ate Mama’s Chocolate-Cheese Pie. Amazing! It was a brownie-cheesecake hybrid cooked in a pie plate without a crust. It helped sooth our unexpected loss of the game and capped off the evening perfectly.

A Fishy Saturday (Part 2 of 3)

Thank goodness for smart phones. We knew we had no time to waste, so I immediately started googling for a spoon fish recipe but to no avail. This must be a fisherman’s term that hasn’t entered the culinary world quite yet. Deciding to skip Jozoara, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Stones River Grill and planned our attack:

Appetizers: Oysters Rockefeller (because Daddy and I are the only ones who love them raw) and Clams in White Wine Butter Sauce

Soup: Seafood Chowder

Dinner: Red Snapper with Pear-Goat Cheese Salad, Broccoli Cheese Casserole (Mama’s contribution), and Rolls (also Mama–she’s no moocher!)

Step 1: Shopping!

We’d have to get into those oysters. David has seen enough Chopped episodes to know NOT to open them with a knife unless we wanted to add an ER trip to our agenda. We stopped at Chef Mart and bought a oyster knife for $3. Not bad!

Publix was next: shallots, spinach, lemons, canned clams (no use wasting the fresh ones in a soup!), and cream. Lots of cream.

Step 2: Making the Broth

My husband is a real trooper. He got into those carcasses like a pro–after I found him “something silicone” so he wouldn’t have to touch the icky fish. Who knew a grill mitt was multifunctional?

Meanwhile I raided our refrigerator for any veggies on their last legs. Carrots, celery, parsnips, onions: get in that broth!

A few hours later we had the tastiest fish broth I’ve ever had. Our chowder was looking promising!

Step 3: Prepping the Oysters

This was a bit of an adventure for my sweet husband. He gleefully took our new oyster knife and grabbed an oyster. Those shells are locked very tightly! It took him a few attempts to figure out how to pry a shellfish open, but once he did, he was a machine. All were ready in under a minute. We added the spinach and cheese we’d prepared and voila! Oysters Rockefeller were ready for the oven.

Step 4: Cooking the Chowder

In my 10 years as a married woman, I have become a master roux maker. That’s how this delectable dish began: shallots sauteed in butter plus flour plus cream, cream, and more cream. David chopped and added the potatoes, clams, and “spoon fish”; then we waited an hour or so for the best chowder we’d ever eaten. Move over Boston Chowda Company!

Step 5: Sauteing the Clams

Our last dish for the evening was one of the first we’d eat with my parents: Clams in White Wine and Butter Sauce. We didn’t really follow a recipe for this; it was all by feel. I started with a knob (as Jamie Oliver would say) of butter, then I sauteed more shallots. Next I added wine and some porcini mushrooms, and I let that all cook together for a few minutes. I then dumped in the clams and let them steam until they opened. After removing the clams, I added some cream and let the sauce thicken just a bit before I dumped it over the clams and set the whole appetizer on the table.

Stay tuned for part 3: our big meal!

A Fishy Saturday (Part 1 of 3)

Today has not gone as planned. David and I like to head to our favorite local coffee shop, Jozoara, and hang out while I do a little blogging and he reads…over my shoulder. It’s become a nice Saturday tradition that I look forward to. Oatmeal, their Local Latte, and writing.

Before we could go to Jozoara today, I had to stop by Reel Fish. This company is a fresh seafood supplier to many restaurants in Middle Tennessee, and on Fridays and Saturdays the public can buy from them too. Yesterday I went in for red snapper and little neck clams so I could make David and me a fancy dinner tonight. Their credit card reader was down, so the owner let me take the fish with a promise that I’d bring a check to him.

When we arrived check-in-hand this morning, the owner was the only person there. We chatted for awhile about our mutual love of fresh fish, and I paid him for yesterday’s food. As David and I turned to leave, he yelled, “Do you like oysters?” Duh. He went into the refrigerator and came back with a bagful of oysters and another bagful of this:

David making “spoon fish” from mahi mahi.

That’s 2 mahi mahi carcasses. He had sold the fillets of those fish to restaurants, and he planned to make “spoon fish” out of what was left. He told us to take the carcasses home and use a spoon to scrape the remaining flesh from around the spine. It would be enough meat to make “about 2 sandwiches.”

We took our smelly treasure with a smile–and a little trepidation. What on earth were we going to do with all this fish? We now had too much fresh fish to consume in one evening. Impromptu dinner party with Mama and Daddy Womack? You bet!

Stay tuned for part 2 of our culinary adventure!

I Love Late July

I don’t mean the month. July in Tennessee is miserable. Even sitting here in the middle of February on a grey day, I dread July. Heat indexes hit 8,000 degrees, and your skin (or maybe your foundation) melts off your face when you get more than 2 feet from an air conditioning vent. It isn’t pretty.

I love Late July chips. Why? Because they’ve gotten my husband on-board the clean-eating ship.

Since David and I started avoiding all chemicals and eating tons of organics, I don’t go down the grocery aisles very often. Organic produce, organic dairy, Ezekiel bread. That’s about it. But believe it or not, the chip aisle has become standard for me. David is a self-described snack addict. He would rather eat a bag of chips and some spicy homemade dip than the most beautiful organic meal I can whip up. I try not to be offended by that.

So why do these chips make me smile? No chemicals, no artificial anything, organic ingredients, non-GMO grains, and no sugar! You’d be amazed how many salty snacks are full of refined sugar. These chips aren’t light in calories, so consume in moderation. This is really hard to do (especially for my snack addict!) with all the tasty varieties they sell. My local Publix carries five flavors, our favorites being Mild Green Mojo and How Sweet Potato It Is. Combine any of those with some plain hummus, and you’ve got a nutritional treat full of protein, fiber, and good fatty acids. What’s not to love?