Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spiritual Lessons from the Amazing Race

I love the Amazing Race. Every season is different and exciting and I always have my favorite teams. This season I’m a bit behind watching online, but so far my favorite team is Adam & Bethany. They are so sweet to each other and tackle each task head on. 

In episode 3, the teams had to herd sheep while in Scotland. It seemed an impossible task with many teams running at their sheep and causing them to scatter in all directions (see video). As I was watching the sheep, I kept thinking how as sheep we all have gone astray. We hop and leap and jump and scatter. We fear what we do not know and run. Quick to react, we get off course. Eventually, one of the teams figured it out, they calmly walked alongside their sheep, quietly guiding them up through the gates and into the pen. 

Now, I don’t usually get much out of the Amazing Race besides being entertained, however, as I watched each team attempt the task I kept thinking about my perfect Shepherd, Jesus. Jesus doesn’t run at us, trying to scare us into submission. He doesn’t yell and wave his arms. He quietly guides. He walks beside us, knowing that we are prone to run and leap when frightened. Jesus is the perfect Shepherd because He knows His sheep (and His sheep know His voice). It’s when we take our eyes off Christ and we try to make someone (or something) else our shepherd that we run around, leaping and misdirected. We scatter. We go astray. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, we can run the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1-2). The most amazing race! And the prize? Much better than a trip around the world or a million dollars. The prize is a Spirit filled life. A life of abundance with Christ, one in which we are co-heirs with Him as He quietly guides us to victory. 

Now that’s the race I want to run! 

Do you have a favorite reality TV show? Or any spiritual lessons you’ve learned from an unlikely source lately? Share in the comments! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Favorite Fall Recipes

I love fall cooking and baking. I think it’s because after a long, hot summer I’m ready to get back in the kitchen and am feeling inspired. Fall here in Nanjing isn’t much of a fall - it pretty much goes straight from summer to winter. One October day it’s hot and you are sweating, then all of sudden, the next day you need to wear socks indoors and you have turned on your heat. 

I have lots of favorite fall recipes. Steven loves pumpkin. I mean, he really, really loves pumpkin. Like, when he was growing up he used to eat a whole pumpkin pie for dinner. So, I make a lot of meals out of pumpkin and I get my bake on. Plus, fall means the holidays are coming and lots of these recipes speak family and comfort to me. 

Without further rambling, in no particular order, my favorite fall recipes. Enjoy! And if you have a favorite to add, please share in the comments. I love getting new recipes from friends!

This is usually the first recipe that heralds in all the pumpkin baking. Steven goes crazy for these cookies. I got my recipe from a friend at work (see, love new recipes from friends!), but the link is to a very similar version. I’ve played around with the spices and usually add a pinch of nutmeg and ground cloves as well. Also, my recipe calls for butter, not oil. You could probably substitute applesauce as well. 

From one of my favorite bloggers, this pasta recipe is so easy to make and easy to tweak to your tastes! I usually add chicken stock to thin the sauce depending on the noodle I decide to use and sometimes I even throw in some whipping cream at the end to make it a little more smooth and rich (not like it needs it, but I love whipping cream!). Don’t skimp on the sage leaves, they add a great depth to this dish. 

This is by far my favorite fall soup. It’s amazing. It is Martha and she does know how to do a good soup! I’ve substituted butternut squash for the pumpkin with the same amazing results. The shiitake mushrooms add a little kick and the color of this soup is gorgeous. Steven likes it a little chunky so I usually puree it in two batches, first batch includes all the veggies and half the pumpkin pureed until totally smooth.  The second batch is the rest of the pumpkin pureed a little thicker to leave some chunks. It’s so delicious. Pair it with a toasted baguette and you are in pumpkin-fall heaven!

Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (no photo, sorry!)
Another Martha recipe. I love this take on your traditional roasted seeds. Large pumpkins don’t exist in China like they do in the States, so I actually buy pumpkin seeds in bulk already dried. I know, kind of like cheating. But hey, it works! 

Have you heard of Iowa Girl Eats? A great food blog! And she recently started going gluten free, so if you are needing some GF inspiration she’s got you covered. This Fresh Apple Cake is one of my all time favs (before she started her GF diet). It’s so scrumptious. This cake is also not too sweet, so all my Chinese friends love it. It’s a great cake to bring to a potluck!

I have no idea how I found this recipe, probably Pinterest. It’s ridiculous. As in, ridiculously good. Steven requests it every fall. I can only make it once a year because I feel so guilty when I eat it. And cream cheese is expensive in China! But these bars are totally worth it (both on the budget and the waistline). 

A new favorite soup recipe, I recently found this and love it! I got a slow cooker this summer and since summer is not the time for cooking (at least for me - I dread being in the kitchen in summer) I finally got it out. This stew is excellent. We served it over brown rice, but you could use any grain if you wanted - or serve it as is! Goes great with fresh bread. Yum!

A Taste of Home oldie-but-goodie. I’ve been making this for years. A great, flavorful comfort soup that will warm you up from the inside-out on those crisp and cool fall nights!