Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Baked Potato Soup

Okay, so somewhere between time and space last week, I realized that I hadn't even thought to post recipes on this dang blog. A real lightbulb moment, eh? Cooking is something I love to do, and yet somehow that part of my life has not really been displayed here. A little insider information: most of my recipes are discovered from or through other blogs I read. Rarely do I follow a recipe exactly.

Below is a wonderful potato soup recipe I found, that truly had a fantastic mouth-feel...perfectly creamy, not too thick and certainly not too watery. The latter have been found in other potato soup recipes I've tried, but have not liked. My tips will be in blue. And might I add that I cannot wait to make this again come Autumn! :)

Baked Potato Soup (4 servings)

3 bacon strips, diced (Did an extra strip for the dog's treat ;)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth (I used 4 c. and it came out fine)
2 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed (Plan ahead and save time...I purposefully had a dinner of chili and baked potatoes the night before. All I had to do was throw 2 additional ones in the oven, done!)
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I omitted the hot sauce, but relished the non-chili spiciness of the black pepper instead)
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Minced fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. (I cheat time by using the microwave instead). Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. (Since getting drippings from a microwaved plate of bacon is messy, I put two pieces of uncooked bacon fat in the pot where the onion and garlic were sauted in. Also, no need to use multiple pans/pots. Keep it simple and utilize one big soup pot to saute the onion and garlic mixture. Then add the rest of the ingredients for your soup. One less thing to clean!) Set bacon aside. Saute onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix well. Gradually add broth. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, cream and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil. Garnish with bacon, cheese and parsley.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Weeping may endure for the night, but Joy comes in the morning

In the last post, I announced my husband's new job; Yahoojah again! It feels so good to have something to scream happily about :) The cause for celebration is great, but the prayers behind it have been greater still.

Having announced his resignation on March 24th and his new job beginning August 18th, it's been roughly 5 months living life on a single income. Fortunately, with my husband's foresight and having moved into our condo with a greatly reduced monthly mortgage, what could have been a crisis was only a temporary time of financial hardship. I really hate to think about what could've happened had we stayed in our old house and then having to live on a single income. But God is good, and He helped us greatly.

He provided through several of our friends with dinner invitations and laughter: the Riccis, Lanes, Castles, Carnes, and Beth. He gave us food and fresh vegetables through the Dunns, Davises, and Dr. Wofford and Charles. We also received medical care at no cost from Dr. Wofford. Our families provided meals and times of fellowship. In short, we were never without food.

Psalm 37:24-25, "Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread."

More than anything though, we relied on prayer and trusting God's faithfulness and goodness to us. It really did my heart good to hear from friends and family that they were praying for us. And there were times when I didn't have it in me to pray myself, but I knew that others were praying for us as well as the Holy Spirit.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, "Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

Even though our physical needs were being met, and we still had a roof over our heads, there were times when emotionally, I just felt exhausted and neglected. "God where are you?" I can vividly recall the day when I sat in my car in the Kohl's parking lot and bawled. It was the first time after already a couple of months where I finally "let it go." I wish I could say that it was one of those prayer experiences that was one of humility and gentleness, but it was not. Instead, the prayer resembled psalms when David was raw before the Lord Almighty (Psalm 42:9-11, Psalm 44:23-24). I shouted that day at God too, very loudly, I might add. Shouting and crying and being alone by yourself paint a scary picture, so if you happened to see me in the Kohl's parking lot that day, sorry. I remember yelling distinct words: "GOD, I'M ANGRY AND I'M TIRED OF THIS! WHERE ARE YOU? WHY CAN'T YOU GIVE HIM A JOB? I'M DONE WITH IT!!!!"

Psalm 86:15, "But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness."

The days grew into weeks, the weeks into months, and time marched on. I saw how difficult it was on him, but as a wife and a human, there's only so much you can do or say to help someone. And it's also challenging to remain positive and optimistic for someone when you also feel discouraged. All in all, I know that God gave us grace to remain kind to one another. I know for some couples, a lot of bad marital issues can arise when something like a job loss comes along. It was indeed a time of "stretching" for us financially, spiritually, and emotionally. But oddly enough, when trials come, a husband and wife can either distance themselves or cleave more strongly. Joyfully, our route was the latter and we came out refined.

Psalm 66:10, "For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver."

I am so grateful that this period lasted only a few months when unemployment can last years for some individuals. All praise to God for orchestrating everything, with the interviews, prayers, and provision. I think it's the uncertainty that wreaks the most havoc during times of testing. But if God had told me, "Hang on girl, you only have five months to endure....," I'm not sure it would've produced the fruit that I can already see from it: I grew closer to God in the process, my marriage grew stronger, I have a greater appreciation for my job/paycheck, and I tangibly saw our loved ones become the hands and feet of Christ. To put it simply, there is beauty in mystery. We need not be afraid of it, but only remember Who's already in control.

Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where oh where have I been???

First off, an apology for having taken a break from blogger. I've been traveling out the wazoo the past month and I have pictures to prove it! :) I also have some great news to share! And the second apology is that this post will be all over the place today, so deal with it :)

A quick recap (depending on accurate memory, might be in chronological order):

-A reunion with my husband's old youth group at the lake. Having 20 people in one house and on one boat was great and I really got to bond with more of them.
-A fun bachelorette party that I hosted and consequently doing karaoke for the first time and absolutely LOVING it!
-Seeing my best friend get married last weekend and doing lots of girly matron-of-honor things in the process. And totally realizing how much I miss living in the mountains...
And the great news is....??

My husband got a job!!! Wahooooo! Or as Beth Moore is prone to yell, "Yahoojah!" This is a major answer to prayer that began waaaay back in March. Brent has been out of work since early April, but God knew all of this and extended plenty of grace our way as well as provision through wonderful friends and family. We are looking forward to be able to pay those people back with blessings too :)

Brent begins his first day next Monday and he is thrilled and itching to go to work. It's funny how God works things out, because this job was unexpected and happened very quickly. The blessings of this job are beyond what we had hoped for as well; fully paid health insurance (we don't pay a dime), a generous retirement plan, quick commute (only 4 miles from our home), a cushy office, and a salary above what other interviewers and companies were not willing to pay. We are so blessed to have God's favor on us!

Because of the surge in income, the renovations (yes, they are still are in the works) can resume again...both bathrooms and new carpeting. God also added a little bonus and we were able to finally sell the leftover wood flooring.

It's strange how I feel like our life was on 'pause' and then all of a sudden, the gears started whirring and we're going full throttle again. Through it all, God was there and He sustained us. Yes there were times when I doubted that, but He gave me grace for my unbelief. I will share more about this time in our life in the next post.
So I promised you some pictures....

The dock and the surprisingly fast pontoon boat
Our really good friends, Rachel and Jeremy with Samaria (other friends' daughter)

Amanda and I waiting to sing karaoke
The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains

Amanda as the lovely bride
Me walking down the aisle