September 13, 2017

Almond Poppyseed Muffins


Every so often, I work as a catering assistant, and here's one thing I learned right away: by the time the night is through, whatever we're serving will inevitably become The Thing I Most Want to Eat in the World.

At a recent wedding, the cake was an almond poppyseed affair, and the minute I was able to swipe a sample from a layer that had been cut and served and whisked away to our prep station, I began fantasizing about this cake. Specifically, about eating it. More specifically, about eating quite a lot of it.

But since neither a wedding nor a wedding cake were in my near future, I needed to apply this combination to something that would fit into regular life. Enter Sunday-morning breakfast. I often make muffins for my family while we're rushing around trying to get ready for church and negotiating face time at the house's "best" mirror. 

I don't make muffins for breakfast before church because I need one more thing to do on Sunday mornings (a.k.a., the time of the week when the members of my family generally like each other the least but must, by the time we pull into the church parking lot, pretend we like each other the most). I do it because making them on Sundays means I have leftovers for Mondays (a.k.a., the day of the week we most need mood-enhancing baked goods for breakfast).

After tasting and obsessing over that wedding cake, I tweaked one of my favorite muffin recipes and ended up with something that had the soul of the cake but the applicability of something I can legitimately serve for breakfast. 

My family liked them quite a lot the first time I made them, thanks for asking, AND we managed to make it to church on time with a minimum of discord. Which is as much of a Sunday-morning miracle as I'm likely to see again anytime soon.



Almond Poppyseed Muffins {print}

2 cups all-purpose flour (sometimes I substitute 1/2 white whole wheat flour, but don't get too grainy with these...you'll lose the wedding cake-esque quality)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (yes) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon poppyseeds
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt OR ricotta cheese
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray OR line with cupcake liners.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and poppyseeds in a large bowl. (I love to use my batter bowl for this, along with about a zillion other kitchen tasks.) Make a well in the center and set aside. 

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients (egg through extract). Pour into the well in your dry ingredients, and gently fold everything together just until you don't see any more dry mixture. Do NOT attempt to de-lump your batter. Lumpy muffin batter is happy muffin batter, and it will make you a happy muffin-eater.

Divide your batter among 12 muffin cups, and bake for 12-18 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean.

Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack. Enjoy while warm or cool completely before storing or freezing in an airtight container. Makes 12 muffins.



Previous post that might have something to do with this one:Four Kitchen Tool Must-Haves Plus One I Just Really Like

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September 5, 2017

6 Verses To Help You Through


A couple months ago, I asked my younger daughter to pray for me about a struggle I'd been messing with for a while. I told her I just felt stuck, like I'd been going around and around in a revolving door and couldn't get out. 

My 14-year-old asked a few questions--looking for a little more detail--then promised to pray.

A day or so later, she handed me a piece of notebook paper filled front and back with her handwriting. At the top, she'd written, "Bible Verses To Help You Through." 



After I'd read just one verse and her personal commentary on it, I:
  • Thanked her in awe and gratitude.
  • Asked if I could share it. Because isn't everybody trying to get through something? 

Maybe you're just at the beginning of "through." Maybe you're feeling stuck in the middle of the middle of the middle. Maybe the end is in sight, but you're soul-weary from the journey.

Wherever you're at, I pray these verses and reflections from my sweet girl--shared here with her permission and blessing--will encourage your heart and mind. 


"But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about.' " (Luke 10:41, 42a, NLT)

"Your unfailing love is better than life itself." (Psalm 63:3, NLT)

"You satisfy me more than the richest feast." (Psalm 63:5a, NLT)

These verses help me to have a better perspective on things. They're a good reminder that the things we are worried about and stress over hold no importance compared to God. The things on earth we allow to hold our delight and joy do not begin to compare to Him and His love for us--His unfailing love that will never leave us empty or needing more, like earthly things do.

"God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?" (Number 23:19, NLT)

This verse puts me at ease. Naturally, as humans, we change constantly. This verse helps me to find peace in the fact that the One Who is greater than any other is constant. We never have to worry that He will change or that His love for us will change. He will always be consistently perfect.



"For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me--the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!" (Jeremiah 2:13, NLT)

Again, this verse helps me to get a better perspective. We become so upset when worldly things we take delight in fail, yet that is what they're bound to do! He is the only, only, only one who can fulfill us.

"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." (Psalm 139:16, NLT)

I think this verse offers peace, too. There is not one event that will take place in our lives that is too much for God. One bad event, or even many, isn't going to derail His outstanding plan for us. He has a great plan for us, immensely greater than what ours could ever be, and His plan works with the bad times, too.


And here's one add-on from me...

"The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need. He lets me lie down in the fields of green grass. He leads me beside quiet waters. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths for the honor of his name. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid. You are with me. Your shepherd's rod and staff comfort me. You prepare a feast for me right in front of my enemies. You pour oil on my head. My cup runs over. I am sure that your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And I will live in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23, NIRV)

I loved the fresh insight I gained into this familiar psalm the other day during my devotional reading from Revealing Jesus, by Darlene Zschech. She quotes the Reverend Derek Kidner about verse 4, which is often translated "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death": "Only the Lord can lead a man through death; all other guides turn back, and the traveler must go on alone." 

Maybe you feel like you're walking through a dark valley right now. Maybe you're going through loss caused by death or the letting-go of dreams or hopes or just the expectation of what your life would look like. Whatever you're going through, Yahweh-raah--God as shepherd--is with you.


Do you have a favorite "get through" verse? 
I'd love to have you share it here or over on my Facebook page.

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Previous posts that might have something to do with this one:

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August 2, 2017

What To Think About Instead of That Thing You're Trying Not To Think About


You know That Thing I'm talking about, don't you? 

It's that subject, thought, problem, person, worry, or issue that's taking up mental real estate and (pre)occupying your brain. 

I'm not talking about something you genuinely need to remember or mull over or figure out or deal with or process. I'm talking about a dead-end road in the pathway of your mind. I'm talking about something you have given ENOUGH ALREADY mental attention to. 

You tell yourself to stop thinking about it, for crying out loud. Just. Stop. Get control of your thoughts and think about something else. Anything else. Except at the moment That Thing is front and center in your brain, you cannot come up with a single other thing to think about. 

A few months ago, I decided I needed a go-to, default action plan to reroute my brain away from That Thing--whatever it might be in various seasons of life--to something else. But not just anything else...I wanted something that would draw me closer to God and His power and peace. 

I started to think that gratitude was the way to go...that instead of mentally chewing on That Thing again, I should think of things I'm grateful for. But then our very creative Creator expanded the idea to include five more areas I could mentally detour to. And He kindly provided them to me in a handy mnemonic acronym (a.k.a., the tool of the memory-challenged). 

In short, God gave me a divine P.R.O.M.P.T. 

These days, when I'm tempted to think about That Thing again (for crying out loud), I try to redirect my mind toward one of these far better mental actions instead: 

Praise.

Praise God for Who He is. Praise Him for what He's like...His character and nature. Mentally list His attributes--"You are good" or "You are just" or "You are unchanging," for instance. I often tell God what His name is: Abba, Jehovah, I AM, and on and on. He already knows, of course...the telling is to remind me, because every one of God's many and varied names communicates something different and true about Who He is. Which is far better to think about than...well, you know.

Remember. 

Remember what God has done in the past. Recount His miracles and faithfulness. Rehearse the impossible situations He's worked out. I've spent plenty of time replaying That Thing in my brain; this is the time to recall what God has done before--and, because He is a consistent God, what He is likely to do again. He was good and just and kind and generous yesterday; He will be the same tomorrow. 

Offend (the enemy).

In the spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6, the sword of the Spirit--God's Word--is our only offensive weapon; all the other pieces are defensive. With the defensive pieces of armor, we fend off harm, but with the offensive sword, we can do damage. We can inflict some wounds. The enemy can't read our minds, though, so when I'm trying to offend him, I like to speak God's Word out loud. As loudly as possible. Which is why I don't usually choose the "O" of P.R.O.M.P.T. in the middle of the grocery store. (See "M," below, if you need to reroute your brain while you're in the produce section.) I favor "sharp" verses like Psalm 18:46 (capitalization mine): "THE LORD LIVES!!! PRAISE BE TO MY ROCK!!!" You've read that in texting and other written communication, using all caps is the equivalent of yelling? Well, in this case, that's exactly the point.

Meditate.

Here's where I turn a Bible verse over and over in my mind, thereby crowding out, ahem, other thoughts. I like something simple and hopeful...this is probably not the time for a mental recitation of the punishments for sin in Leviticus. I favor phrases like "Your love is better than life" (Psalm 63:3) and declarations like "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13).

Pray.

For others. For myself. Repeat indefinitely.

Thank. 

Back to the armor of God: during a fabulous Bible study I had the privilege of facilitating on this subject, I learned that gratitude is what activates the shoes of peace. That Thing I'm trying to mentally avoid is a great peace stealer, but gratitude is a great peace sealer. It's hard to think about That Thing when I'm thinking about everything I have to be thankful for. Which is exactly the point. 


Like any other new habit worth forming, training my brain to P.R.O.M.P.T. is an ongoing process and daily (hourly?) decision. But I'm determined to keep it up until this P.R.O.M.P.T. becomes my mind's go-to thought.

Do you have your own That Thing you're trying not to think so much about (for crying out loud)? I'd be thrilled to know if this P.R.O.M.P.T. makes any sense and, even better, if it helps you gain some ground in fighting the good fight. 

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I was so honored to share a condensed version of this P.R.O.M.P.T over on Of the Hearth, as part of the two-part series "Can Busy Moms Really Find Time to Spend with God?" No guilt here, just practical suggestions for finding God-time right in the middle of your crazy life.



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