Spice up the Rice

Submitted by Melissa on Friday, April 13, 2012 - 14:05

I love mixing up a jar of this ahead so it's ready to use in my rice. It’s a simple but flavorful addition! Just throw it into the rice cooker (or pot if cooking on the stovetop) with the brown rice and water. The rice comes out with a delicious flavor and the house smells great too!

My husband loves this "rice spice," especially with a homemade version of refried black beans found in this cookbook.

Spice Mix 
(download here to print or save as PDF)

4 tbsp. granulated garlic
4 tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. tumeric
1 tbsp. cumin
1 ½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. ground ginger

Stir spices together and store in a tightly sealed jar.

Add 1 tbsp. of spice mix per ½ cup dry rice.

I use 2 ½ cups of water to every cup of brown rice. This ratio makes it turn out soft but not mushy in my rice cooker. What ratio have you found works best for you when making brown rice?

Indian-Spiced Lentil Soup

Submitted by Melissa on Monday, April 9, 2012 - 20:06

We shared a quart of this soup with our friends from church. It disappeared quickly, and we had a lovely visit.

I think it's time for a soup recipe again. The other day, my husband opened the fridge and asked, "Where's that soup you made?" To his dismay, it was already gone. But, ahh, I'm always listening when my husband enjoys and wants more of something. If he likes it, then I'm pretty sure you will too!

(Later this week, I'll share the recipe for the Raw Cookie Dough Bites that he would have devoured solo. The kids and I, however, wouldn't allow it. LOL.)

The soup recipe is inspired from the book Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson, available from Amazon here. I tweaked a few things (like less cayenne to make it more kid-friendly).

Indian-Spiced Lentil Soup
(download here to print or save as PDF)

½ cup water
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs
1-2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
pinch of cayenne (1/8 tsp. was a bit too spicy for my kiddos)
1 ½ cups dried brown lentils, rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock or water
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Saute onions, celery, sweet potato, and garlic in ½ cup water over medium heat. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until softened.
  2. Add juice from the tomatoes, then chop the tomatoes (optional) and add them to the pan.
  3. Stir in ginger, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.
  4. Add the lentils and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the cilantro, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes so the flavors can blend.

Serves 6-8.

lentil soup

How to Help a Cancer Patient, Part 1

Submitted by Melissa on Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 20:50

help a cancer patient

Have you been here before? The phone rings. You just found out someone you know has cancer.

The news hits you like a ton of bricks. Your thoughts are swirling. You wonder, “Why?”

In fact, that night you can hardly sleep. Every time you wake up, you think of this person dealing with that “C” word that no one likes to even say to the face of the newly diagnosed patient.

You’re not sure what to do. You want to help, but you’re just not sure what you could possibly do to help ease the blow on this person or their family.

I understand. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a friend and former student of mine who was suddenly diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. I was devastated. I stayed awake thinking about and praying for her. I wondered what I could do to help.

Then I received that personally life-changing phone call. Now I was the cancer patient. My perspective drastically changed.

In this series of posts, I’m going to walk you through some suggestions of what you can do for a cancer patient. In fact, these ideas could apply not only to cancer patients but also to individuals and families dealing with a traumatic situation or serious health condition that throws their schedule haywire.

Today we’ll look at three simple things you can do to make a world of difference in someone’s life.

Send a Card

This may seem small, but, believe me, it’s huge. I never quite understood the importance of a card until I started getting them in my mailbox day after day.

This personal, hand-written form of communication may seem to be a lost art today, but I found out it was alive and well.

Each card struck a chord...to think that someone would think of me and take the time to send a beautiful card in the mail to show they cared! I still have a drawer full of them that I can’t bear to throw away.

If you don’t know what to say in the card, it’s okay. You could simply sign your name. You don’t have to write a book. But if you want to include something, copy a verse of Scripture that is one of your favorites. Share a poem. Include the words of a hymn.

Pray for Them and Tell Them You are Praying

The prayers of God’s people are powerful. “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” the Scripture says. Pray specifically for their needs as I wrote about here. Post their picture in a prominent place so you to remember to pray throughout the day.

I remember Rebecca, a lady at church, telling me she was praying for me. In fact, she said whenever she saw a red car, she would pray for me. I can’t remember the story behind the red car, but it was encouraging to me that she was praying for me throughout her daily routines.

It would be impossible to count the number of people who told me (or relatives of mine) that they were praying for me. Not only was this encouraging, but I know God continues to answer these prayers!

Take a Meal

It’s hard to accurately express how dramatically a life changes with a cancer diagnosis. For me, my routine turned upside down as I had to schedule medical tests, doctor visits, surgeries, follow-ups, etc.

All that with two small children (then, an almost-2-year old and a 3-year-old). So that meant scheduling someone to watch them as well. Thankfully my in-laws live close by, and my mom and sister helped out a ton too.

But the scheduling dilemmas, although significant, were not the most difficult adjustment. There was emotional and mental stress dealing with the “C” word and its possible implications.

I usually enjoy working in the kitchen, but at this point, it was the last thing I wanted to do. Thankfully, my church family and other friends were a tremendous help. Two of my friends brought me a meal each week those first couple months. Some people brought as they felt compelled.

Whatever food was sent, we consumed and enjoyed. Everyone has to eat, and most of us eat at least three times a day. A meal will most certainly be appreciated.

My suggestion is this: don’t say, “I’d like to bring a meal sometime. Let me know when it would work out.” Instead, tell them, “I’d like to bring you a meal this week. Is Tuesday all right?” And keep working on it until you get a date nailed down.

Great thing is, you don't have to be a tremendous cook to take someone a meal these days. Costco and Sam's have great options. (Should I name a few? In the refrigerator section: pulled pork, chicken pot pie, chicken salad, delicious soups, pot roasts, ravioli, and more!)

In the coming weeks, I'll share some more ideas from my ever-growing list. When I talk to cancer patients or those with life-changing conditions, I ask for their input. It's always eye-opening, and I can't wait to tell you more.

Power Balls

Submitted by Melissa on Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 21:18

If you are transitioning to a more plant-based diet, you may find yourself craving a sweet snack now and then (or should I say a few times a day?).

Although I try to keep even healthy sweet treats to a minimum, I do belive it’s important to have to have them available. These Power Balls (called such after my husband enjoyed eating what I called "Energy Balls") are great at satisfying that sweet tooth. If you’re dying for a touch of chocolate, go ahead and add some dark chocolate chips, hey?

Have you seen the Larabars in the energy/protein bar section of your grocery store or health food store? In general, the ingredients are pretty good.

But how would you like to make some that are just as tasty, potentially more healthy, and much less expensive? This recipe started out as a version of homemade Larabars (but without the dates) as I mentioned here and here, but then it ended up in its own camp. It's unique.

I didn't think my husband would like them, so I didn't even mention that I was making the treat. But as I was taking some pictures, he sneaked up behind me, grabbed one, ate it, grabbed another, and another, and another. That's always a significant factor in my book!

Of course, the kids enjoy them, too, and would eat them all if I allowed it.

I’ve both made them into balls and formed them into bars (by rolling them between parchment paper). For maximum nutritional benefit, soak your nuts and pumpkin seeds overnight, rinse them well, and dehydrate them. But if that sounds too overwhelming, just skip it for now. One day, you may want to explore that part of the raw food world.

That discussion is for another day. For now, here’s the recipe.

Power Balls {for printable version click here}

½ cup raisins

½ cup dried cranberries (or sub another similar dry fruit)
½ cup oats
¼ cup ground flaxseed
½ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup raw pecans
⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
a few dashes of cinnamon
2-4 tbsp. liquified coconut oil (enough so they stick together when pressed)

Add ingredients to a food processor and mix until ingredients stick together when formed into a ball.

Form into balls, or to make bars, pour out mixture onto a piece of parchment paper. Fold sides onto top so you can roll it between parchment paper to form a rectangle. Then cut into strips.

Place in freezer for 30-60 minutes or until hardened. Store in fridge.

Warning: you may want to double the recipe. These things move pretty quickly at our house.

Power Balls

Authentic Mexican Guacamole

Submitted by Melissa on Friday, March 30, 2012 - 21:38

organic guacamole

When we were vacationing in Mexico a few years ago, the quality of the guacamole at the restaurants was our standard of whether or not the restaurant was truly Mexican.  

Tonight, Dan whipped up a delicious batch of guacamole, comparable to our favorite guac in Mexico. What a guy!

All the ingredients, including the chips, are organic. I think the organic veggies do taste better.

So instead of sharing my Energy Balls (or bars) recipe tonight, I’m sharing this. But I promise, I’ll post the Energy Balls soon!


2 organic avocadoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small tomato
½ small red onion, diced
3-6 stems cilantro, minced (he used 6 because I love cilantro)
juice of ½ lime
salt and pepper to taste 

Mash everything well with fork but leave some small chunks. Serve with organic tortilla chips (a huge bag at Costco is a great price; Aldi also has a small bag of blue organic tortilla chips). When transitioning to a plant-based diet, tortilla chips help the men. They can still have their crunchy chips. I buy organic corn chips because then I know they’re not genetically modified. 

Whip up a batch of this guacamole, and you won’t be disappointed.

Serve it to your guests. They’ll think they’re dining at a restaurant in Mexico. Smile


Submitted by Melissa on Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 10:28

spring flower

Suffering. The word is used again and again in Scripture. Merriam-Webster defines "suffer" as "to submit to or be forced to endure."

Is there a difficult circumstance that you are being forced to endure? Christ submitted himself to intense suffering for us. We have no greater example of how to respond.

Thomas Merton1 wrote the following:

In order to suffer without dwelling on our own affliction, we must think about a greater affliction, and turn to Christ on the cross.

In order to suffer without hate, we must drive out bitterness from our heart by loving Jesus.

In order to suffer without hope of compensation, we should find all our peace in the conviction of our union with Jesus.

These things are not a matter of ascetic technique but of simple faith.

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God...Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin" (I Peter 3:18; 4:1).

In your hour of trial, look to Jesus. Dwell on His amazing sacrifice. Your heart will be filled with His love.

1 Thomas Merton, The Word of the Cross, 94.

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain

Submitted by Melissa on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 20:57

heart and rainbowToday's randomly drawn sidewalk art (thanks to my neighbor Tina), very fitting for this entry.

Have you ever found yourself focusing on the beautiful rainbow in the distant sky, despite the rain around you? You’ve decided it’s okay to get wet and stand in the rain because the rainbow is one of God’s most beautiful creations.

Growing up as a country girl in Wisconsin, I found myself standing in the valley enjoying the wide spread of a rainbow across the eastern sky in the afternoons or early evenings when the sun decided to show its face during a rain shower.

The corn fields dotting the valley were beautiful and calm with the creek passing through them, the railroad tracks spanning the near horizon, and a distant farm gracing the countryside.

There were times of joy and sorrow in those years, and it was the calming countryside where I would take walks or sit on a log and meditate on life and its meaning. I’m so thankful that the truths of God were instilled into my life at an early age. The Bible was revered, and daily time with God valued.

My surroundings are now different. I live in the suburbs of Chicago where traffic abounds. Sirens blare. Neighbors are close by. Solitude is not in my backyard. But above me is still the blue sky, and a few weeks ago, I traced a rainbow through the rain.

My surroundings might be different, but my God and His love are the same.

During the offertory at church this last Sunday, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the string orchestra playing Dr. Ledgerwood’s fitting rendition of “O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go” before opening the hymnal and following along with the amazing lyrics.

Love. Light. Joy. Cross--the four themes of each stanza. Love that won’t let me go. Light that follows me all my days. Joy that seeks me through the pain. The cross that lifts up my head.

Today we celebrate the birthday of George Matheson (March 27, 1942 - August 28, 1906), whose hymn “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” has been treasured for many years.

Whatever surroundings and circumstances you find yourself in, take a moment to be blessed by the words of this powerful hymn. Trace your rainbow through the rain, and thank God for His never-ending love.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.