Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Coconut Macaroons

These coconut macaroons are easy and delicious. I was glad to find this recipe since I love coconut macaroons and so does my husband. I have modified it slightly to make it more coconut-y. For those of you who are coconut lovers, you may also like my recipes for coconut cake and coconut pecan pie.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5-1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

In a large bowl, mix the coconut, flour, and salt.

In a smaller bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk), vanilla, and coconut extract. Pour the condensed milk mixture into the larger bowl with the coconut and mix well. 

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Drop golf ball-sized portions of dough on the cookie sheet (or use an ice cream scoop). The dough will be very sticky so grease the spoons or ice cream scoop beforehand to help. 

Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies are toasty brown on the outside.

These macaroons are best served warm. You can heat them up for a few seconds in the microwave and they get soft and chewy in the middle. Enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Biblical Dating: Pure

Purity is the second of the Characteristics of Biblical Dating. The first characteristic we looked at was Christ-centered, and it was first for a reason. If your dating relationship is not Christ-centered, it most likely will not be pure. You need the power of God in your relationship in order to stay pure.

But what does it mean to have a pure dating relationship? How pure should it be? How does one achieve purity? All of these are necessary questions to ask and to answer if a dating relationship is to be pure.

If you look up purity in the dictionary, you get two definitions:
1.      Freedom from adulteration or contamination
2.      Freedom from immorality, especially of a sexual nature

The second definition is perhaps most useful in this context. Sexual immorality is rampant in our culture. However, we as Christians, are called to be holy and pure. Since God has reserved sexual intimacy for marriage, we are called to refrain from it until after the wedding (and then engage in it only with our spouse). We’ve all heard that.

For example, I Thessalonians 4:3-7 says: “For it is God's will that you be sanctified: You must abstain from sexual immorality; each of you must know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with passion and lust like the gentiles who do not know God; and you must never take advantage of or exploit a brother in this regard. For the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.” (ISV)

The first definition of purity is also helpful, however. Since the opposite of purity is contamination, we should realize that sexual immorality is a contaminant. It contaminates not only our soul and conscience, but our relationships as well. God’s design for sex in marriage is so beautiful and amazing, but sexual immorality taints that. God’s law against sexual immorality is for our benefit, not to prevent us from having fun. Once we realize that, we are in a better position to remain pure.

So, what things should be avoided before marriage? Obviously, intercourse is wrong before marriage, but many other behaviors are also sexual in nature and should be reserved for marriage. Sexual intimacy is a complex phenomenon with many triggers and facets. It would impossible to provide a complete list of things to avoid. And, of course, if I were to try to make a list, someone would inevitably think of something that wasn’t on the list and think it must be okay to go ahead. The idea isn’t to have a list of wrong behaviors, but to strive always to be as pure as possible. In general, if it gets your motor running, avoid it. Save all sexual intimacy for marriage.

Most of us can identify behaviors that should be avoided before marriage. We usually know what is right and wrong. The tricky part is actually living out those convictions. It’s hard to maintain sexual purity, especially when you’re in love and want each other so bad. So how does one live out purity? Here are some practical solutions to help you maintain purity in your relationships.

·       Understand God’s plan for sexual intimacy in marriage. It’s a lot easier to wait for marriage when you know what you’re looking forward to and when you realize that saving intimacy for marriage will make it so much better.

·       Pray for purity. Pray for wisdom, that you will be able to recognize temptation and avoid poor choices. Pray for the strength to say no to sin. The good thing about praying for purity is that you already know God wants it for you. All you have to do is ask Him for what He already wants to grant.

·       Clearly define your physical boundaries before entering any dating relationship. Again, you can’t make a complete list, but you can decide that you will not do certain things. If you enter a relationship with just a fuzzy idea that you don’t want to have intercourse before marriage, you are in a dangerous position. Most likely, you will engage in sexual behaviors and then not be able to stop yourself from going all the way. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So put some guidelines in place long before the heat of the moment leads you to do something that will taint your relationship and your life with sin.

·       Define physical boundaries with your boyfriend or girlfriend at the beginning of a relationship. Very early in the relationship you should come to an agreement that you will remain sexually pure until marriage. If the other person doesn’t agree that sexual purity is important, they probably don’t have the Christian character that you are looking for, so save yourself the trouble of a dead end relationship and find someone else.

·       Don’t just agree to remain pure, however. Plan your dates to ensure purity. One of the most important things you can do on this front is to have accountability (more on that in future posts). If you aren’t accountable to anyone, if no one is checking up on you, you probably will go farther than you planned to. You also need to plan not to have an opportunity to sin. For example, don’t be alone together in an empty house or dorm room. Alone together will be great on your honeymoon. Wait for that time.

·       Be aware of your body’s response to sexual behaviors. If you are doing something (even if it seemed harmless) and you find yourself being turned on and wanting to go farther, stop immediately. Be willing to avoid even things you thought were fine if you find that they lead to temptation.

·       If you do mess up, repent and set stricter guidelines to ensure you don’t do it again. Don’t simply give in and keep doing what you were doing. It’s easy to think, when you’ve crossed a line you said you wouldn’t, that you might as well just keep on. You haven’t “saved” that for marriage so you might as well indulge. That is a dangerous line of thinking. It is never okay to sin. If you have sinned, confess it, forsake it, and plan not to allow opportunity for it to happen again. 

Are there any other suggestions or tips for keeping a dating relationship pure? Have you found any handy ways to prevent temptation or to remove yourself from a compromising situation? Do you know of any additional pitfalls to avoid? Share them here so that others can benefit.

Linked up with The Alabaster Jar.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Easiest Spaghetti and Meatballs Dinner

This is probably the easiest recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that I’ve ever seen. Meatballs can be complicated. I came up with this recipe one afternoon while trying to figure out what to make for dinner in a hurry. I had always just browned some ground beef to put in spaghetti sauce, but this recipe is almost as easy as that and it tastes better. Add some mozarella-topped Italian bread (see below) and a salad and it makes a tasty Italian meal in just 30-35 minutes.

1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
1-1/2 to 2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Italian seasoning (optional)
Garlic powder (optional)

Mix ground beef, egg, and bread crumbs together to form a fairly stiff dough. Add seasonings to taste and mix well. Roll into walnut sized balls. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and add meatballs. Cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides.

Drain the meatballs and add them to your spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu meat-flavored sauce because it is less acidic than many spaghetti sauces) and heat through. Avoid heating for too long or the meatballs will absorb much of the liquid in the sauce and make it too thick.

Meanwhile, boil the spaghetti according to package directions. (We prefer whole wheat thin spaghetti.)

While the spaghetti is boiling and the sauce is heating, prepare the bread. Cut slices of Italian (or French) bread about 1 inch thick and lay them on a cookie sheet or baking tray (I put mine on a toaster tray). Slather them with garlic butter and sprinkle lightly with Italian seasoning.

Top the bread with mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 400F for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and turns toasty brown on top. You may want to turn on the broiler for the last couple minutes. 

Top spaghetti with meatballs and sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with the mozzarella-topped bread and a nice salad and you have a great Italian meal!

Linked up with WLWW and WFMW.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Biblical Dating: Christ-Centered

Let’s talk about the first of those Characteristics of a Biblical Dating Relationship I mentioned the other day.

A Biblical dating relationship must be Christ-centered above all else. As Christians, everything we do and say should be Christ-centered. We all hear that all the time. And, of course, we know that a dating relationship is no exception. But what does it mean to make Christ the center of your relationship in a practical, everyday way?
First of all, it means that a Christian should never date a non-Christian. You can’t possibly have a Christ-centered relationship unless you are both in Christ. There’s also the Biblical mandate: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:14) The Bible clearly states that we should not be “yoked together” with someone who is not a believer. A yoke is a wooden device used to harness two beasts of burden (usually oxen or mules) together so that they would use their combined strength to do a task such as pulling a plow or a wagon. Usually, these two animals formed a permanent team and would always be yoked together rather than to any other animal. Any farmer worth his salt knew that the two animals that were yoked together had to be equal in strength. Otherwise, the stronger one would be hindered and exhausted by doing most of the work (and pulling the other animal around) and the weaker one would be hurt by being pulled along faster than he could keep up. Also, the two animals had to pull in the same direction or they would exhaust and possibly injure each other. Eventually, both animals would suffer if they were unequally yoked. In the same way, Paul says in II Corinthians that believers should not attempt to form permanent relationships with someone who is not a good match spiritually. Christians and non-Christians are going in opposite directions in life. They cannot make a good team, no matter how many other things they may have in common.
Just because two people are Christians, however, does not mean that their relationship is Christ-centered. A truly Christ-centered relationship will only occur when both people put Christ first in their lives and in their relationship. That means that they must love God more than they love each other. It means that they must want God’s will more than they want to be together. It means that they will do what is right, even when it is hard. It also means that they will see the other person as a priceless son or daughter of God and treat each other accordingly.
As for some practical suggestions on how to achieve a Christ-centered dating relationship, here are just a few:
·         Pray for the person you will someday marry, that God will keep them strong in Him.

·         Pray for your current relationship, that it may be pure and honoring to God and that God will give both of you wisdom as you proceed.

·         Keep your relationship sexually pure and above reproach (more on that in the next post).

·         Share your testimonies with each other and talk about your relationship with God. Share what God has been showing you recently or ways He has provided for you in the past. In other words, make your relationship with Christ an integral part of your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

·         Talk about spiritual issues and be sure that both of you agree on major doctrines.

·         Engage in Christian ministry together. Attend church together. Teach Sunday School together or help out in a bus ministry or other program.

·         Once the relationship is definitely headed toward marriage, pray together for your relationship as well as for other things in your lives. (Be careful of this early on because it can build too much intimacy too soon.)

·         Seek mentoring from a godly married couple you both know.
Are there any other things you can think of that will help in building a Christ-centered dating relationship? How have you tried to keep your focus on God during a dating relationship? Are these suggestions and explanations helpful?

Linked up with Yes They're All Ours, NOBHWLWW, To Love Honor and Vacuum, WFMW, and The Alabaster Jar.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Coconut Pecan Pie

My husband and I like pecan pie (though he likes it more than I do) and we both love coconut so when I came across this recipe online, I printed it out. It sat in my recipe collection for months and the other day when I was looking for something different to make for dessert, I decided to make this pie. It was great! The filling is a little less sweet and rich than a regular pecan pie and more buttery. The coconut adds a whole new flavor and makes this pie very unique.

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 cups pecan halves
1-1/2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and then stir in the sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

Stir in the pecans and coconut.

Pour into pie crust. Cover loosely with a dome of aluminum foil. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes. Remove the foil dome. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before cutting.

Note: If you really like coconut, you can add an extra 1/2 cup of flaked coconut. However, you’ll need a deep dish pie crust if you do (or it will overflow).

Linked up with NOBH, WFMW, and WLWW.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Characteristics of a Biblical Dating Relationship

Ever wondered what a Biblical dating relationship looks like? In our society today, many people are confused about how to build and maintain good relationships. Even in the church there is a lot of confusion on this issue, and many Christian singles wonder whether they are doing things right or not. I’ll not attempt to give a step-by-step formula, but here are some essential characteristics of a Biblical dating relationship for your consideration. I’ll just list them now as food for thought and later go into more depth on each one.

A Biblical dating relationship is…
§  Pure
§  Respectful
§  Accountable
§  Based on good communication and trust
What do you think these terms mean within a dating relationship? Are there any other characteristics that should be included in this list? Can you think of practical ways to include these characteristics in a relationship? How would you examine a relationship to see if it meets all of these criteria? What happens when a relationship is missing any one of these characteristics?
I'll be talking about each of these characteristics in more depth over the next few weeks so stay tuned.

Linked up with The Alabaster Jar, Seeds of Faith, To Love Honor and VacuumNOBH, WFMW, WLWW, and Yes They're All Ours.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chicken Pie

This recipe is a quick, easy, and delicious way to use leftover chicken. I typically use leftover chicken from my roast chicken dinner or from a rotisserie chicken. You can also boil chicken specifically for this recipe. The good thing about this recipe is that it is easily flexible to use whatever amount of chicken you have. For that reason, consider the measurements given as a rough guideline. This recipe yields a 9x13 pan, but it can be easily adjusted.

About 4 to 4-1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1(26 oz) family size can cream of chicken soup
3 cups chicken broth (or 1 can of broth, using the can from the soup)
2-1/2 cups milk
About 4 cups biscuit baking mix (e.g. Bisquick) 

Place the chopped chicken in the bottom of a 9x13 pan (for this recipe). You can also use a large casserole dish if you prefer.

Mix the cream of chicken soup and chicken broth together and pour over the chicken in the pan.

Mix the milk and biscuit baking mix to form a soft dough. You want it a little thinner than normal biscuit dough. Dollop it on top of the soup mixture until the surface is pretty well covered.

Bake at 400F for 40-45 minutes or until the top is well browned and the biscuit topping is not gooey inside. Serve with your favorite veggie (green beans or peas work well). Enjoy!

Note: To adjust the recipe for other amounts of chicken, simply adjust the amount of chicken soup mixture and biscuit topping used. Use approximately equal volumes of soup and broth and keep the biscuit topping a little thinner than regular biscuit dough. For example, for an 11x7 pan, you might use about 3 cups chicken, 2 (10.5 oz) cans of cream of chicken soup, 2-1/4 cups broth, 1-3/4 cups milk, and 3 cups baking mix. If you have a little more or less soup mixture or biscuit topping, it doesn’t make a big difference. You just don’t want it too dry.

Linked up with NOBH, WFMW, and WLWW.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reflections on Two Years of Marriage

Yesterday was my anniversary. My husband and I have been married for 2 years now (where did the time go, anyway?), and I've been doing a little reflecting on this journey of life we're on together.

I like that word "together." I like being a team with my husband. I like the way we make decisions together, spend time together, work together, relax together, and dream together. Marriage is a wonderful thing.

People often say that the spark will fade eventually, that the excitement of being married will die. Well, so far, it hasn't happened to us. Being with my husband and sharing life together still thrills me. My heart still does little flip flops when he looks at me or touches me. It's a little different now than when we were first married, because we're used to each other. But it hasn't grown old or stale. It just gets better because we know each other even better. Our intimacy has grown and deepened. We're more a part of each other now than we've ever been and we love each other more than ever. I hope we always feel this way about each other (and I think we will, as long as we take time to appreciate each other).

Two years ago, on our wedding day, we were so in love and excited to be finally married. We were finally free to jump into life together with gusto, finally free to express the desires of our hearts. But our love is deeper now, and stronger, than it was then. We know each other better now. Then, we had the thrill of the unknown and the excitement of discovery. Not that we were strangers. On the contrary, we knew each other quite well. But there’s a certain knowing that only comes from living together day in and day out, seeing each other in every aspect of life, being one. This more mature love doesn’t have to replace the old excitement (at least not completely). It was meant to add to the love that a husband and wife share. And it just gets better and better as time goes on.

A lot has happened these last two years. The biggest change was the arrival of our little girl last November. A baby sure changes things. But having a child doesn’t have to drive a wedge between a husband and wife. We’ve actually found that we’ve grown closer as we learn to be parents together. We’ve had to be careful to always put each other first, even over being a parent, and to talk things over together. Making time for each other can be difficult at times. Reagan has a knack for waking up at the most inopportune moments. But spending time together is a priority for us and we make it happen on a regular basis.

I think one secret to keeping the spark alive is to take time to appreciate each other. If you take each other for granted, if you forget to be thankful for each other, it’s so much easier to become dissatisfied and discouraged. A grateful heart is a happy heart. That’s true in general, but especially true in marriage. And, of course, it’s not enough to simply feel grateful – you have to tell each other of your appreciation. This can be done through words, gestures, and even writing love notes (yes, I took my own advice and wrote one for my husband yesterday). My husband and I take time to tell each other of our love and appreciation on a regular basis and it has kept us close.

So, here we are beginning our third year of marriage. I’m looking forward to what this next year will bring. I’m confident that this year will be even better than the last – that we will grow even closer to each other as we learn even more about each other. It is our desire and plan to spend the rest of our lives learning to love each other more.

How about you? What tips do you have for keeping the spark alive in a marriage?

Linked up with NOBH, The Alabaster Jar, Yes They're All Ours, To Love Honor and Vaccum, The Unveiled Wife, and WLWW.

Friday, June 1, 2012

No Crust Pumpkin Pie

I make this pumpkin pie year round. It’s probably the easiest pie recipe I have, and it tastes great! My husband loves it (he’s not a fan of piecrusts anyway) and I get compliments at church dinners when I bring this. There’s no crust to worry about. Just mix the ingredients, pour in a pie plate, and bake. It’s the same recipe often known as “Impossible Pumpkin Pie” that supposedly makes its own crust (with a little bit different spice mixture). It doesn’t make a crust, it just gets firm enough not to need one.

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup baking mix (e.g. Bisquick)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients until well blended (you can do this with a mixer or in a blender). Pour into a greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream (or both).

Linked up with NOBH and WLWW.