Hey Foodie, Say “Cheese”

I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like.

It could be that someday a new taste will not set well with me in that dairy category, but so far, cheese has always made me smile. Like Little Miss Muffet, I even like my curds and whey.**

Here in my area of the planet, it’s autumn and getting chillier outside every day. We naturally begin to add comfort foods to the menu which we might not have eaten during the hot summer days.

Like soup. Chicken soup, chili, bean soup, pea soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of homemade soup or stew.

I’ll keep my pie hole closed for most of this post and give you a couple recipes using cheese. These come right out of my recipe box (stained 3×5 cards and all). First, the soup, featuring two favorite foods.about-cheese

Cheddar and Bacon Soup

  • 6 slices bacon cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3 c. shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
  • 1 quart milk
  • ¼ t. pepper

In a medium saucepan, fry the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Reduce heat to low. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes or until onions are tender.

Stir in flour; cook one minute. Stir in milk. Raise heat to medium-high. Add cheese and cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until cheese is melted and soup is heated through (about 10 minutes). Do Not Boil! Add the pepper; stir until mixed. Yields about 6 1-cup servings

Now for a quick appetizer for snacking on crackers while you cuddle up in your recliner to watch a good movie. Or “Walking Dead,” if that’s your thing. This spread also tastes good on a sandwich with tomato. Use whole grain bread, an English muffin, croissant, bagel thins or whatever you like. You know me, I throw it together and see what comes out.

Pimiento Cheese Spread

  • 2 7-oz. jars sliced pimientos, drained
  • 3 8 oz. bricks sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 c. mayonnaise

Place the drained pimientos in a blender or food processor and puree them until almost smooth. In a very large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the cheese and pimiento, beating until partially blended. Beat in the mayonnaise.

The spread can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Allow the spread to reach room temperature before serving. Yields about 32 servings, 2 T. each.

Don’t forget the family favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Or homemade macaroni and cheese. Loaded baked potatoes. Big old cheeseburgers, and, well you get the idea. In my world, any time is a great time for a dish made with cheese.

Eat hardy!

*Cottage Cheese

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Walking the Cemetery

We weren’t creepy kids. My best friend, Sandy, and I were just curious, and we found something that ended up being a learning experience when curiosity took us to the local cemetery. For the life of me, I can’t remember what prompted that first visit, but walking the cemetery became something we did fairly often.

Lakeview Cemetery was off the beaten path, but still in the village limits of our small town. A right turn off Lincoln Avenue, the main street through Lakeview, and you eventually came to the wrought iron gate of the cemetery.

Just inside the gate stood a marker. After such a long time, I don’t remember anything of significance it might have had written on it. The gate and marker only fascinated us on the first visit. We learned to walk the length of the narrow road to Lakeview Cemetery because we knew what we’d find.

Some would say our visits did have “creepy” written all over them. But we carefully avoided stepping on graves, and took our time exploring each time we went. Whether walking under overhanging shade trees or in the summer sun, we found small headstones and large family markers. Names familiar and names only the dead knew. Carved into each marker we were discovering our heritage, strange as those people were to us.

With sadness, we rubbed our fingers along a stone’s mossy face, trying to make out a faded etching. Our little hamlet was almost 100 years old. How old was the cemetery? How long had it taken for weather and time to erode those names, just as the memory of the folks buried there had disappeared?

In the oldest section of the property, we followed a curving trail. Situated on Tamarack Lake and tucked into the corner of a woods, the cemetery could be beautiful if you had the right mind set. We considered it beautiful. It’s possible we didn’t even know we were being creepy.

The more we visited the cemetery and walked through it, the more we discovered about our town. We also discovered more about life and death. As if watching a movie for the second or third time, we’d see something significant that was missed on a previous trip.

One time it was the baby.

That headstone was old. Terribly old, and even sadder than the moss and lichen growing on other headstones. Sandy and I were only teenagers. It was difficult for us to imagine a baby in a grave. Walking the cemetery was teaching lessons we didn’t expect to learn. But we always left feeling peaceful. Even invigorated.

Time eventually takes loved ones from us. So cemeteries have a purpose. They’re a place for not only the dead to rest, but for the living. For some reason, we have a need to visit our dead and pay respect to them even when they’re gone.

I’m told that elephants respect their dead in profound ways. Film crews shooting a documentary captured a herd of elephants on their way to find water during a drought. The elephants’ lives hung in a balance; it took days for them to finally find water. Yet on the way, they came to an elephant burial site. The herd stopped. They stood at the site and were still and quiet for over an hour.

How did they know? Were elephant bones strewn on the ground? Was there a scent only they could detect? Had they traveled that way before on a trip to find water and members of the herd had perished there? Is that elephant memory? Those questions don’t really need answers. The elephants were doing what elephants do.

And as creepy as it might seem, we do what comes naturally for us. We stand quietly or kneel at the grave site. We have conversations with our friend, parent, spouse, sibling. Whomever. We leave flowers, flags, notes, and trinkets. We weep. Others show no emotion at all.

We do it for ourselves. We may not walk the cemetery to discover our heritage, but we walk a familiar path and connect once again. We know our time is coming and for some reason, the marker and that little plot give us peace.

Today I know I can visit my home town cemetery and find a few loved ones buried there. My parents. Two neighbor girls who died unexpectedly and tragically. And Sandy, my best friend, has been buried there for over thirty years.

I’d love to talk and laugh with her again. For a while after her death, someone would do or say something to make me think of her. “Sandy would have appreciated that,” I’d think. Then I’d remember that little plot by the lake where she rests. I’d be quiet and still, doing what I do. Feeling peaceful and even invigorated.

As creepy as that might sound.

 

© 2016 Paula Geister

It Really IS All About Love

But Jesus says to us…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends.” ~ from the sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:43-47

Jesus was teaching in this sermon not just how to treat others. I believe He was trying to get the message across that we are all loved by God, who created us all in His image. He recognizes evil. Nevertheless, He provides for us all.

I like to look a little further than what seems obvious because of what I’ve read in a Bible study or heard preached from a pulpit. The Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised, will teach us all things and remind us of what He has said.

How do you often see a little deeper than the obvious? In your experience, what passages of scripture lend themselves to this? Do you “read the white part?”

Be a blessing to someone today.

Foodies Talk About Food

I know how you are. I listen when I’m out with you. I overhear you doing it. I watch and see you doing it on social media. You all like to talk about food.

For example:

You show us where you’re eating right now. You take pictures of that great meal you cooked. You share recipes. Yes, indeed, we like to eat and talk about eating. Listen to these folks who are just like you and me. See what they have to say, whether in a light-hearted way or in all seriousness, about food, cooking and eating.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
― Orson Welles

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

“Wait. Why am I thinking about Krispy Kremes? We’re supposed to be exercising.”
― Meg Cabot, Big Boned

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

“Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It’s a grain. It’s like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem.”
― James Patterson, The Angel Experiment

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”
– Erma Bombeck

“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
― Sophia Loren

“My wife and I tried to breakfast together, but we had to stop, or our marriage would have been wrecked.”
― Winston S. Churchill

“I’m pretty sure that eating chocolate keeps wrinkles away because I have never seen a 10-year-old with a Hershey bar and crow’s feet.”
― Amy Neftzger

“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”
― James Beard

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

“Cakes are like books: There are new ones you want to read and old favorites you want to reread.”
― Ellen Rose

“I will not eat them in a house, I will not eat them with a mouse, I will not eat them in a box, I will not eat them with a fox, I will not eat them here or there, I will not eat them anywhere, I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.”
― Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

 

Foodies Can Make Their Own Stuff

It’s a great idea to keep your own stash of cooking mixes handy. I prefer to make my own with the ingredients I have right in my pantry. I save money that way and I know what’s in my mixes. Most of the time, with a minimum of preservatives. Here’s some DIY mixes I have on hand all the time, with the exception of those that require cooking or preparation immediately for the dish I’m making.

Taco Seasoning (mild)

  • ½ c. + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 T. cumin
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. ground pepper
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 2 T. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

For a spicier mix, add up to 2 tsp. red pepper flakes or up to 2 tsp. more of the chili powder. Use 2 ½ Tbsp. seasoning for each pound of meat. Stores well in a plastic zipper bag or small jar.

Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot Cocoa Mix

  • 2 c. non-fat dry milk
  • ½ c. baking cocoa
  • 1 c. sugar (or substitute)
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use as much as you need for your individual taste per cup.

 

 

Seasoned Baking Mix (for meat)

  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • ½ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients and store the mixture in a resealable container or zipper bag. This will keep in the pantry up to four months, depending on the humidity. It’s okay to freeze or refrigerate this mix. Easily doubled or tripled. Use recipe one cup at a time as you would the commercial mix. I like to dip my chicken in a mixture of ½ c. milk (or buttermilk, which you can also make yourself) and one beaten egg. I also make my own bread crumbs using stale bread or the crusts of bread by pulverizing them in a blender. The crumbs can be stored in the fridge too for use in other recipes.

  Hot Fudge Topping

Left: Pumpkin Pie Spice
Right: Taco Seasoning

  •   1 c. sugar
  •   2 Tbsp. flour
  •   3 Tbsp. cocoa
  •   1 c. milk
  •   1 tsp. vanilla
  •   Salt to taste

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan. Add cold milk gradually, stirring constantly and cook until thickened. Just before it thickens, add the vanilla.

Enchilada Sauce

  • 3 c. chicken broth                                      1 tsp. cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt                                                 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 heaping tsp. garlic powder                   1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp sugar or substitute                      1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano                                            8 oz. can tomato paste
  • 5 Tbsp. cold water                                     5 Tbsp. flour

In a 2 quart saucepan, blend broth, cumin, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, cocoa, oregano, and sugar. Whisk to blend well. As mixture is heating, slowly blend in the tomato paste. Heat to boiling, then quickly reduce heat to a low boil. Cook for 3 minutes more. Whisk frequently to thoroughly dissolve spices.

While sauce simmers, make a thickener adding flour to the water 1 tablespoon at a time. (Whisk or shake vigorously in a shaker to avoid lumps.) Use more flour as needed. While sauce is at a low boil, add thickener, stirring constantly. If sauce forms a skin while cooling, peel it off and toss it. This particular homemade specialty will impress you and your family or guests. It’s much tastier and, like I said, you know what’s in it.

Eazy Peazy Pizza Crust

1 ½ c. Baking mix              1/3 c. boiling water

Make a soft dough from the mix and water, using a little flour to keep dough from being too sticky. Boiling the water is what will make the crust more chewy and flavorful. Makes enough for one pizza or 4 six-inch pizzas, depending on how thick you like your crust. If you know how to make your own baking mix, all the better.

Just for Fun: The Classic English Breakfast

Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, Toast, Mushrooms, Beans, Sliced tomatoes, and of course, Tea.

Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living: a Review

by Reuben P. Job, copyright 2007, Abingdon Press, 77pages

This book is based on John Wesley’s three simple rules: Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay in Love With God. The editor, Reuben P. Job, says in his preface that these three rules “have the power to change the world.” I’m a Wesleyan and am familiar with the Discipline, so the book had some attraction for me when I first picked it up.

It’s a book which can be read perhaps in one sitting, but I believe it needs to be read more slowly so the reader may chew on the wisdom of Wesley. For instance:

“When I am determined to do no harm to you, I lose my fear of you; and I am able to see you and hear you more clearly.”

While “Three Simple Rules” is intended for a general audience, I believe the message is especially relevant for leaders. Emphasis, in my opinion, should always be on staying in love with God. When I do that, I’m more likely to remember the greatest commandments. Then it follows that I’ll “do no harm” and “do good.”

This tiny little book includes a Daily Guide to Prayer and sheet music for “Stay in Love With God,” which is adapted from words by John Wesley. Epigraphs for each of the three chapters are taken from Psalms and the New Testament.

I keep reading this book over and over again because it’s like a guidebook. There’s so much to learn and apply. Certainly it will take a lifetime for me to be true to its principles.

Foodies For the Birds

Right now, in my neck of the woods, fall is coming. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and I’m blessed I get to experience four of them in the Midwest. Today, we’re veering from human food to food that’s literally “for the birds.”

Because I’ve lived in an apartment for so long (some place or another), I don’t always get to have things like patio furniture, lawn ornaments, or bird feeders. If I could, I’d definitely be feeding the birds from at least two feeders. My dad kept them and one of his favorite things to do while relaxing in his recliner was to watch the birds in their feeders outside the living room window.

Since we associate this season as one of bird migration, we should remember that some birds benefit from feeders all year long. Birds have a year-round need for reliable, steady food sources. They get the bulk of their food from natural sources, but knowing what food types you should feed during each of the four seasons enables you to help backyard birds stay alive and healthy all year.

Another school of thought is the opposite of whether to and what to feed birds during winter. People sometimes think it’s unnecessary to keep feeders in summer. They take the feeders down in the summer months because they think it should be easier for birds to find food then. According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are good reasons for not putting the feeder away during the warmer months. The bonus with that idea is you get to enjoy the birds all year long.

Plus, with the soaring summer temperatures, it’s easy for birds to become dehydrated so in addition to plenty of food, they need fresh, clean water. Placing a bird bath and cleaning it regularly provides a place for birds to cool off and get a quick drink during blistering summer days. Cleaning your bird bath regularly in summer helps to avoid the spread of illness and disease. And you wouldn’t want to bathe in or drink icky water, would you?

These are some birds I get to enjoy even during my Michigan winters. —–>

Here in the northern hemisphere,  autumn can be the best time to see a wide variety of birds at your feeders. Many birds migrate in the fall and feeders provide a welcome place to refuel their energy along the way. During this time, birds need foods high in fatty oils and calories to replenish themselves during their incredible marathon flights. Some of the best options are:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Nyjer® seed
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Nectar (Hummingbirds need to refuel as well)

These choices are also ideal for birds that do not migrate for winter. Establishing a reliable food source in the fall will ensure your backyard birds are kept fed in the rough winter months. They’ll return to places where they’re used to finding a regular food supply.

Since some birds remain in the same location year round, winter is one of the most pertinent times to feed the birds. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates, or when temperatures drop to freezing. These birds require high calorie and oil-rich foods to survive shorter, colder days. Winter birds benefit from foods such as:

  • Suet (especially good in winter, high fat content)
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Black oil sunflower seeds (contains twice as many calories as striped sunflower seeds)
  • White Proso Millet

Other ideas for feeding your feathered friends with stuff you have right in your kitchen are:

Baked eggshells They provide calcium, which can be essential for females during nesting season. It’s extremely important that you wash and bake the shells to kill any potential pathogens. After you bake them, crush them and add to the bird seed or just sprinkle them on the ground. They work well in a standard platform feeder.

Nuts If you have some roasted nuts past their prime, put them out and see which birds take a bite. Salted nuts are okay too but put them in a bag first and shake as much salt off as you can. Or clean them with a moist paper towel, then dry them in a flat pan. A little salt won’t hurt them, but too much isn’t good for birds. Don’t use whole nuts. Break them into pieces. This is crucial during summer because mother birds may feed them to their chicks with disastrous results. The idea is to aid the bird population, not harm it.

Roasted seeds Plenty of birds are seed eaters, so this one seems like a no-brainer. You might consider going beyond the commercial sunflower and safflower varieties. Keep the seeds from your fall pumpkins and squash and bake up a batch. Reserve a few for yourself and munch on seeds while you watch (out the window like my dad did) the birds enjoying a different kind of treat. Remember, your seeds can be salted, but add it to your portion after you’ve baked them. Northern cardinals (plentiful during a Michigan winter for me) and sparrows especially enjoy seeds.

If you’re new to feeding wild birds or even if you’re not, be aware of some common misunderstandings and mistakes we make when setting up feeders and keeping them stocked.

No matter how much you do, the simple act of feeding feathered friends in your backyard will make a monumental difference in the world around you. When you feed birds, you help more baby birds survive. Baby birds will then grow to adulthood and continue to strengthen the population. The improved and strengthened population of birds will eat more insects and help to keep those populations low, so you’ll need fewer chemicals to control them. Because you’re using fewer chemicals, the environment becomes healthier for you, your children, your pets, our water supply. And the wild birds.

Be a blessing to the birds today

Fun fact Saying that someone “eats like a bird” has a literal meaning and doesn’t apply to a human’s eating habits. (Probably) If we ate like a bird, we would consume five times our own weight in food each day. To keep them in flight, birds have a high metabolism rate. That’s why it seems they’re always feeding when you see them. They probably are because they’re trying to maintain their energy level.

 

Another One Bites the Dust

Those of us who write mostly for publication in magazines now have fewer and fewer markets to sell our work to. With the internet and the electronic age, writing for print becomes a struggle for us. We have to dig deeper to find publications taking freelance work. We have to agree to sell a different kind of “rights” for our work (Electronic rights now become part of the deal.) There are even more ‘interesting’ ways in which we’re expected to submit our work.

Today, in reply to my request to an editor for the magazine’s most recent theme list, the editor said there was no theme list because they’ll be discontinuing publication with their January/February 2020 issue. In the last five years, we’ve lost many markets that used to take our work. They don’t take freelance work anymore because, in an effort to save money, they use in-house writers. They can no longer afford to even publish because circulation is down.

While this is discouraging, I have to remember that my aim in writing isn’t to get quantity writing into print, but quality writing. I understand that in writing for Christian markets, which is my main audience, God determines what happens throughout the whole process. It’s certainly not about the money. Paychecks can be few and far between. I tell my friends or anyone who asks about my writing, “If I did it for the money, I wouldn’t be doing it.” (I will say, however, the occasional check in the mail puts gas in the van.)

I figure if only one person is comforted, humored, edified, lifted up in spirit, challenged in their thinking, or blessed in any way by something I wrote, I did my job according to God’s will. As a matter of fact, I’ve had people call me on the phone to express how my writing had an impact on them. Imagine my joy.

The number of print markets we freelancers have to sell our work to has become smaller. But that fact doesn’t mean God won’t somehow use what we do get published to further His Kingdom. On earth as it is in Heaven.

So be a blessing to someone today.

 

A Conversation About Mental Illness

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Recently, a couple of friends at church asked me how I am. They really wanted to know. It wasn’t just a “Hi, how are you?” greeting.

I told them about some recent struggles with my manic-depressive illness. They know that I’m mentally ill so talking about it wasn’t such a big deal. I told them that, with help from my psychiatrist, my moods lately are becoming less erratic and troublesome. I saw from their individual responses that people within the Church can be helpful in what they say because they’ve done some homework about mental illness. Besides, these ladies also know me personally.

Perhaps Christians are beginning to take mental illnesses as seriously as they do other chronic illnesses. Less often do they respond in a way that puts the blame for being sick on us. I’ve had some spiritual brothers and sisters say things they probably would never say to someone else who’s sick. I’ve been told I’d heal if I’d just “pray more” or “trust God.” I’ve been told I’m possessed by the devil.

I pray. I trust God with everything in me. But I still often struggle with more than one chronic illness.

Here’s how I explain the fact that it’s a chronic illness. My illness is no different from that of a diabetic. That is, except for the fact that my illness is behavioral you also understand that, in the event of a major episode, a diabetic’s behavior can be out of character too. What differentiates us is they have a chemical imbalance in their pancreas because it doesn’t produce enough insulin. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain because it doesn’t produce proper amounts of specific neurotransmitters. That’s a simplification, but one I hope most people can understand.

If we who have a mental illness don’t talk about them as illnesses, how can we expect others to? Approximately one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year. They have clinical depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disorder), schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder (dissociative identity disorder), post traumatic stress disorder, or one of many others.

I’m writing a devotional that’s faith-based and meant to help people with mental illnesses. Even we who have been diagnosed need to better understand our illnesses. Understanding can help us to navigate the changes we’re experiencing and to live better lives according to those changes. I want the book to help someone newly diagnosed or someone who’s been diagnosed with the illness for years.

We need to talk with one another about the diagnosis and any prescribed medications. We need to stay in touch with and use honesty with the doctors who have us in their care. We need to talk about the times we experience outpatient or inpatient treatment. And maybe most of all, we need to learn how to keep a balanced lifestyle to avoid the stress which can bring on an episode more quickly.

What I hope will be especially helpful for us is the idea that a family member or friend can also learn by reading the book with its accompanying essays written by people who have a mental illness. While the book is being written with my Christian faith as a foundation, I don’t see why anyone couldn’t learn at least a little from reading it.

There. This may have been your first real education in better understanding mental illness and accepting it as a disease. Please try to better understand us. Pray for us. We’re ill and sometimes feel hopeless. But we are certainly not helpless. Your support can make a big difference in making even just one single day more livable for us. Whether it’s a hard one or a not-so-hard one.

Be a blessing to someone today

Conduits of God’s Love

Come Empty

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28, 29

Get Filled

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Go, Pour Out to the Worldfrenchpitcherw-bread

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35, 36