Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shavuot and Pentecost

Shavuot, in short, is the remembrance of the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai. It was seven weeks after the exit from Egypt. It was a time when God reminded the Israelites that they were treasured and special above all. But like a good parent or leader He needed to give commands and guidance. This was that time.

The Israelites had seen many miracles and wonders in those seven weeks - parting the Red Sea, escaping the Egyptians, water from a rock, manna & quail, and so forth. They agreed to follow all that the Lord commanded.

Exodus 19:9 says, "So the Lord said to Moses, 'I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.'" God set apart a time to meet with Moses and His people. He went on to give instructions of getting ready, cleaning up and setting the signal for gathering and setting the boundaries for approaching the Father on Mt Sinai.

The time came for this Holy meeting. So close your eyes and put yourself in this scene. You've cleaned up, you're in your very best duds all squeaky clean. You have no idea what really to expect other than going to this mountain, a cloud is going to appear and the voice of God will be heard. How can you even put that together in your mind? A mountain, a cloud, voice of God....hmmm. This wasn't commonplace like - "Oh yeah, everyone clean up, we're meeting God today." I don't think this is how this was going down.

Fortunately we are given more details on this side of the story.

Exodus 19:16-19 "On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him."

Now can you visualize a little better? Unfortunately we still cannot totally fathom or imagine this! Might we be thinking "Oh my word, I am going to die. The world has come to an end!"

Then in Exodus 20 God speaks the FIRST 10 commandments. "I am the Lord your God..." but He only gets through 10. After the 10th command the Israelites can't take anymore. They are scared to death! Make it stop!

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.'" They retreat and Moses approaches the cloud where the God is.

The next 11 chapters are rest of the commands given to Moses that the people couldn't handle hearing for themselves. Wow! A holy meeting where God has come to meet His people! Unfortunately He doesn't get to finish with them and has to work through Moses exclusively. The fear of the people will shortly thereafter lead them to sin with the idol Golden Calf and about 3,000 people are killed. Stay tuned though, because there is a little twist that will come many years later. Hold on to that number of about 3,000.

This point in time was a marker and point in time of remembrance that the Israelites would call Shavuot.

So let's fast forward to the time of Christ after His resurrection and about the time of His ascension to heaven. Acts 1:4 Jesus gives the promise of the Holy Spirit, "On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" He goes on further to more pointedly and powerfully express in verse 7, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

So here we are at Acts 2 - the Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost. Pentecost is a Greek term "the fiftieth day". It is really a Greek word for Shavuot. If you are unfamiliar with the biblical feasts, Shavuot is one of three pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The men would travel to Jerusalem for these three events of which Shavuot was one.

So Jerusalem is jam-packed with Israelites, the Temple is all bustle and activity, remembering and celebrating the giving of the Torah. Offerings are being given again as commanded, folks are fellowshipping and so on. There is still a buzz around because not long before this man proclaiming to be God died, was raised to life, then rose into heaven. Whoa! What else could happen?

So Christ's followers of course are part of Shavuot giving their offerings, coming to Temple as commanded in Torah. But Jesus' followers also had this promise to sit tight in Jerusalem and wait for the Gift of the Holy Spirit. So I can see them hanging out at the Temple grounds probably still discussing the wonders of the past few months and maybe whispering amongst themselves about this Holy Spirit thing.

So let's pick up in Acts 2:1 "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." Let's stop here and offer a thought-provoking question - Is it possible this happened at the Temple? (A discussion for another time.)

The following verses mention the mix of languages and people all able to hear and understand in their native languages. Remember the Israelites have come from all over to Jerusalem as commanded. Also bear in mind that not all Israelites were in Israel by this time - they had been scattered with exiles, wars and so forth.  Plus there were other nationalities coming to Jerusalem to do business and take advantage of the festival.

Another Holy Meeting with the Father!! In Exodus He gave us His Word / His Commands. In Acts He gave us His Spirit. But was this the first time the Holy Spirit made its appearance? No, there are many accounts in the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit settled on certain people, times and circumstances. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the flood gates being opened and the Holy Spirit taking up permanent residence. The Holy Spirit wasn't disappearing or going anywhere! Christ had just walked the earth showing us in human body form how to live out the Commands perfectly. He was the perfect example. He was also the ultimate perfect final sacrifice. While Israel was the chosen People, Jesus opened the door through His life and sacrifice along with outpouring the Holy Spirit "to the ends of the earth". No holds barred, come on, let's have a Holy Meeting with the Father - everyone!

Peter addresses the crowd after this outpouring of the Holy Spirit since some were thinking they were drunk or enjoying the feast a little to heartily. He preaches about Jesus, the promises He gave, the way that was paved, spoke of the prophecies fulfilled.

Acts 2:37 "When the people heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" Verse 41 "Those who accepted his message were baptized and about three thousand were added to their numbers that day."

Remember back in Exodus where 3,000 were killed for their sin with the Golden Calf? Well, here we see 3,000 were added. Wow! See how God has the most intricate details worked out in His plan? He gave us written commands and He came in Spirit to dwell within us all on Shavuot. He took away, He gave.

I want to tie all of this together with a passage from the book of Joel. Joel 2. This whole chapter is so powerful. But I want to pick out several key verses:

24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
    the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

28 “And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.

Prophecy fulfilled. Holy Meetings with the God of this universe.

"Burning in My Soul" - Matt Maher

~ Kendra aka Lady Sterling

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My New Friend: Beef BACON!

About 10 years ago I largely stopped eating pork for various reasons. Of course when you stop eating pork, you stop eating bacon.

You stop eating bacon and you die a little on the inside.

OK, maybe not, but you look for alternatives. So we started eating turkey bacon, turkey ham, turkey sausage, and so on. It was fine and we like those things.

Then my dairy farmer friend told me about beef bacon. Hmmm, beef bacon - really? Why had I not found this over 10 years?! She told me when I had beef bacon I would never turn back to turkey bacon. So I gave it a whirl.

This was the only brand I could find locally but I am on the look out for other brands and better prices. This is a bit pricey compared to pork bacon and turkey bacon. It was $4.79 for 12 oz at our local grocery store.

Fried this up and oh my stars! Look at this goodness?!

It was delicious! Now, I had gave up biscuits and gravy because of how lean turkey bacon and sausage is. I very rarely will fall off my pork abstinence and indulge in biscuits and gravy. Now, this girl can go back to biscuits and gravy guilt free! Hallelujah!

We still largely eat turkey products because of the reasonable price but beef bacon is at least available for those times when you need better bacon in your life.

Whole Wheat Apple Honey Braid

For most baking that I do I use fresh ground wheat from my Wonder Mill, which I love! I use many different kinds of wheat and grains in my baking. This dough used organic soft white wheat berries milled on the pastry setting.

I used several recipes to come up with this final product - replacing sugar with honey and honey granules, replacing all-purpose white flour with fresh milled wheat flour, and so forth.

Whole Wheat Apple Honey Braid

Bread Dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/3 cup olive oil*
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp salt
5 heaping cups fresh milled flour **
1 Tbsp yeast

Put all the Bread Dough ingredients in your break maker in the order your manufacturer recommends. (I use a Zojirushi which calls for wet then dry ingredients.) Set the machine to the setting and start. As the dough mixes check on it to be sure you are getting the right dough consistency. (See note ** below.)

* NOTE: The key to good olive oil that doesn't make baked goods taste funny and like olive oil is buying olive oil that is bottled at the source in Italy or Greece. If it has been imported then bottled, then you take a chance on the oil tasting funny or too much like "olive oil". This is because the distributor may bottle the olive oil with other oils to make it cheaper. This sounds funny since you are using olive oil, but trust me on this! I buy my big jug of Kirkland organic olive oil at Costco - be sure to check the label because some are not bottled at the source.

** NOTE: Fresh milled flour is fluffier and airier than the bagged flour in stores. 5 cups is a good starting point but you may need more as you watch the dough develop. If it is to wet and sticky, add an additional 1/4-1/2 cup at a time as it mixes until you get the right dough consistency.

Apple Filling:
3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While the bread dough is working in the bread machine, in a small casserole dish, toss the Apple Pie Filling ingredients together until all evenly coated. Bake in the oven 15-20 minutes. Apples should still be a little crunchy, not soft. (Be careful not to grab a spoon and eat them all now!)

When the dough is complete, dump out onto a lightly oiled surface. Gently knead a few times. Roll out into 1/4" think rectangle. Move to parchment lined baking sheet. (I learned this after the fact - learn from my mistake!)

Slice edges in 1" wide strips  on both sides to look like a fringe.

Pile cooked apples down center of dough. Be careful not to get all the juices in there or your final product will be soggy and doughy. I sprinkled a little extra granulated honey and cinnamon but that's optional. Pile more apples than what you see below. I was being conservative and in hindsight pile more on there!

Gently fold strips of dough over center of apples criss-crossing so they resemble a braid.

Bake the braid in the 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tsp milk or half and half
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg ***

*** NOTE: Fresh grated nutmeg, oh my! I buy whole nutmeg and grate it as I need it. Once you use fresh grated nutmeg you will NEVER buy bottled powdered nutmeg again. Trust me on this!

Brush the glaze on the still hot apple braid. Let it cool about 5 minutes. Slice it up and serve.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Liz Miller Texas Sheet Cake

Another yummy family recipe passed on to me from my mom. It is kind of a cross between cake and brownie to me. Best eaten when warm too!

This picture was so we could share the cake with others so it was divided to 3 small pans instead of one large sheet.

Liz Miller Texas Sheet Cake (modified)

Cake ingredients:
2 c flour
2 c sugar
2 sticks butter
1 c water
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In large mixing bowl combine flour and sugar. Set aside. In medium heavy saucepan combine butter, water and cocoa. Heat to boiling. Beat into flour mixture. Add remaining ingredients. Beat well and pour into large greased jelly pan or sheet pan. Bake 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the frosting as you will want to frost the cake while it's hot.

Frosting ingredients:
1 stick butter
4 Tbsp cocoa
6 Tbsp milk
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

In a heavy saucepan bring to boil butter, cocoa, and milk. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat well with mixer. It will be like a thick glaze, rather than a stiffer icing. 

When cake is removed from oven, frost with warm icing. 

Best eaten warm and gooey!

Mémé's Egg Rolls

For some odd reason I've gotten into the habit of making these egg rolls either on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. This recipe came from my mom and has always hit the spot. I've looked at other egg roll recipes but haven't the courage to try them so I stick to this standard. 

The only variation in the recipe below is baking the egg roll as opposed to deep frying. I normally deep fry them, but next time (year) I will try baking them instead. 

NOTE: Lots of chopping ahead! I'm old-fashioned and chop it all by hand, but you go ahead and employ your food processor! :)

Mémé's Egg Rolls

1 lb uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breats, finely chopped
2 Tbsp corn starch
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
4 Tbsp oil (I use coconut oil)
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 c bamboo shoots, finely chopped
1/4 c water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 small head cabbage, finely chopped (about 3 c)
1 large carrot, grated
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Drizzle of sesame seed oil

1 package egg roll wrappers
1 egg white

In a small mixing bowl combine chicken, corn starch, ginger and soy sauce. Stir this mixture until chicken is coated. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Heat oil in wok or large heavy skillet. Stir fry mushrooms one minute. Add chicken and continue stir frying until chicken is firm and white. Add remaining ingredients (except wrappers and egg white) and stir fry until cabbage is tender, yet crisp. 

Let cool before filling egg roll wrappers. 

Place a diagonal mound of filling on an egg roll wrapper. Fold the right and left corners over, pull up the bottom corner and roll over. With a little egg white, seal the top corner to the egg roll.

In deep saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil for deep frying. Gently place 4-5 egg rolls in pan depending on size of pan. Fry to golden brown. Carefully remove egg roll onto cooling rack. 

Enjoy with your favorite sweet & sour sauce! (I like a sweet pepper jelly I found at Costco.) 

Makes approximately 20 egg rolls.

As noted above you place the uncooked egg rolls on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees. (Per instructions on the egg roll wrapper package.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Oreo Cookie Dessert

Oreo Cookie Dessert

42 Oreo Cookies
1/4 cup of melted butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
1/2 gallon of softened Vanilla ice cream
salted peanuts (quantity depends on individual liking)
small jar of hot fudge ice cream topping 
12 oz Cool Whip

Crush 42 Oreo cookies until nice little chunks are left. Reserve 1/2 cup of crushed Oreo cookies. Combine remaining cookies with melted butter. Press mix into bottom of 9x13 pan to form a crust. Spread ice cream over Oreo mixture layer. Pour hot fudge topping over ice cream layer. Sprinkle with salted peanuts. Cover with Cool Whip. Sprinkle remaining Oreo crushed cookies. Freeze dessert for several hours. Cut into squares and enjoy! 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Big Messes of Tomatoes! First Pink Brandywine

Our weather has been hot, rainy, humid, and sunny all around. The hot, sunny then rainy has caused my Pink Brandywines to begin splitting. I am rescuing them a little early to salvage some of the tomatoes rather than lose them waiting for them to fully ripen on the bush. My kitchen window sill will work for the rest of the ripening.

I must note here that these tomatoes are amazing! So delicious! The pink brandywines will make a great cooking and slicing tomato. They don't have the thick hard cores in them - they are just tasty juicy and meaty goodness.

Now these Pink Brandywine tomatoes are larger than a softball to give an idea of their size.

July 6, 2011

1st Pink Brandywine - it was delicious! :-)

Then here is the 2nd mess of Husky Red Cherry Tomatoes and some Romas:

And the remaining cucumbers and first onset of green peppers:

July 9, 2011

This is another mess of tomatoes - Husky Cherry Red Tomatoes and Romas

Several more Pink Brandywines and Green Peppers - pretty good sized ones too! Notice the splitting? (sniff, sniff)