Test Kitchen #95 ~ Keep It Simple

I like pretty food.

I like pretty food that taste good.

I especially like pretty food that taste good and is simple to whip up.
When we were in Lakeland Rob and I had dinner with the pastor’s family and a few church members. The company was entertaining and conversation flowed easily. The food was really yummy but this simple little appetizer she served us was so delicious I knew I would be making it and sharing the goodness on here.
The flavors are so good together and it could not be any easier to put together and it’s also very pleasing to the eye. 
What you’ll need:
goat cheese
fresh rosemary, chopped
wheat thins
What you’ll do:
Place the goat cheese on your serving plate. 
With a spoon soften and basically mess the shape up a little.
Sprinkle with walnuts and rosemary.
Drizzle with honey.
Set it beside a bunch of those wheat thins and step back out of the way because people are going to want to eat it up!

Why I Should Be Critical

It’s been so quiet here on the blog lately, hasn’t it? Not for lack of words or ideas and stories; I have those in abundance swirling around in my brain. So much so that I am having a hard time keeping them from running into each other and becoming an incoherent mess. As I typed that out it dawned on me that what I need to do is write it down and sort it out. But, like most of us, I find it easier to let it all rattle around in my head without actually committing to one train of thought and following it through to a conclusion. I have greater success in creating my reality, whether correct or not, when I keep all my thoughts jumbled and incomplete.

But that really isn’t helpful, is it? Or profitable. I’m reminded of the prayer found in Psalm 19:14 ~ “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight…” It sounds good to say that I am spending a lot of time thinking about gracious living and what that looks like but if I am not willing to really sort out what that means, and sincerely look at my life through the lens of true Truth and not just my own rambling thoughts, then my words and thoughts probably aren’t very acceptable to anyone, much less a holy and just and gracious God who calls me to live a holy and just and gracious life.

I think what I need to cultivate is a critical eye. We shy a way from that word as if  “critical” has become the new “judgmental” and the whole taken-completely-out-of-context “judge not lest you be judged” is applied the same way. The word critical has fallen on hard times in our society but it’s helpful, I think, if we push it into the I-do-not-think-that-word-means-what-you-think-it-means spot light.

The definition that we’re most familiar is, of course, negative – one of disapproval and judgement. That’s not the critical I am speaking of. Unfortunately this is the critical that comes most naturally to us. Our bent, because of sin, is toward the six foot log in my own eye but all I see is the teensy weensy splinter in your eye kind of critical.

But there is another way of interacting with being critical; a way that is healthy and profitable. It’s being able to assess the good and bad of something. When I do a family’s pictures I practice this kind of critical when I go through their images later and determine which ones I will give them.

It falls more under the realm of critical thinking and our culture is not real big on that. We leave that to the egg heads, the more studious and analytical types. The average person focuses more on how they feel about something rather than any kind of critical (thinking) evaluation of circumstances or things.

Is there a way to be critical that is bad? Of course there is. We are a magical people with a boundless capacity for turning something good into something bad, and equally good at hypnotizing ourselves into believing that it’s all good and not bad at all.

One critical is looking for perfection to it’s own standard and pounces with a mighty “Aha!” when it sees perceived sin. The name of the game is control and getting things they way we like it.

The other critical is careful judgment; for the purpose of refinement or, if there is sin involved, for the purpose of restoration. Because sometimes it’s not sin. Sometimes it is just immaturity and a rightly critical eye will learn to look for and know the difference.

As a parent I want to turn this kind of critical eye on my children. One way that this looks in my life is our Sunday afternoon lunch at church

each week. When we’re getting ready to eat, are my girls looking to help with the younger kids as they go through the line? Are my children always first in line? Is Claire taking only the food and amount of said food that she can and will eat? Are they helping in the clean up afterwards?

I want to assess these things not so I can tell my children they are being selfish and rude, but so I can steer them into the better way of being part of the community. I want them to be thoughtful participants within our church family.

I need to  turn that critical eye on myself as well. Am I being a thoughtful and kind member of our church family? What about within my home? One of the biggest ways that I can do this is by being charitable in my thoughts of others. Am I willing to assume the best behind the actions of others? Or am I immediately taking offense at something said or done?

Being rightly critical is a skill long neglected but surely needed in our world. It is a powerful tool that used correctly can strengthen and encourage the body of Christ.

Test Kitchen #37 ~ The Non-Chocolate Edition

Our church eats together every Sunday after our worship service. Actually, I’d say that it’s a continuation of our worship as we feast on the bounty that God has blessed us with. The exception to our corporate meal is the first Sunday of the month when we try to gather in homes for smaller group fellowship. But trust me, smaller group does not equal a smaller feast! Today we had brisket, grilled chicken, fresh green beans, corn on the cob, three salads and three different desserts. It was good food and good friends all day.

Which is why I am sharing not one, but two recipes with you today. Neither of which I cooked but thoroughly enjoyed so much that I scraped my original post for this week just to share them with you. (And yes, I know I mentioned that there were three desserts and it may seem unfair that I am only sharing two of them but in my defense, Betty Jo is an amazing cook and I just about killed myself on her brisket and home grown green beans and I had no room left for even another bite of cake. It was, however, Rob’s favorite so I will be getting the recipe post haste and will actually bake it before I blog it on it’s own.)

Here is a smallish confession. I am not a big cake eater unless the word cheese is in front of the word cake. I love how they look and I am amazed at the beautiful cakes people can bake but normally I pass right by them and head straight for the pie or brownies. Oddly enough both of these recipes are cakes though. Really really good cakes.

This first recipe is for a coconut cake that is out of this world crazy good. If you or someone you love enjoys coconut then this is the recipe for you! Bonus is the recipe is found on a really great new to me blog called Family Favorite Recipes. I’m pretty sure that I will be visiting there more often now that they have been discovered.

The cake has a lovely texture and a delightful coconut flavor that is nicely balanced with a yummy cream cheese frosting. Toasted coconut adds a nice touch to the finished confection making it as pretty as it is tasty.

The other recipe is also from a new to me blog. A Cup of Jo seems to have a little bit of everything with some rather nifty photographs that catch the eye.  But the star shining so bright for me right now is the best ever buttermilk blueberry coffee cake. It is moist and delicious and is bursting with nutmeg and it also has a really good brown butter vanilla glaze drizzled on it. I’m giddy at the thought of the slice I have tucked away for tomorrow morning’s cup of coffee.

Since blueberries are a favorite this cake is definitely on my to make list. It will be a perfect addition to brunch or tea.

And, yes, for the record I did take pretty pictures of my friend’s food for this blog post. I did wait until my friend’s were gone which means only my neighbors got to wonder what craziness I was up to out on my front porch. Of course my neighbor’s might be used to it by now 🙂