Roasted vegetable and tomato soup with garlic-rosemary flatbread. Yummy lunch on a cold day!
The soup is inspired by two of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten, and The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. They are my “go-to” chefs when I want to create something yummy!
First, I cleaned, peeled and cut into chunks severeal vegetables that were available in my kitchen.
I used about 2 pounds of tomatoes – a variety of mostly organic tomatoes. I prefer organic when I can get access to them. I cleaned them and left whole. I used cherry tomatoes, Roma and vine-ripened garden variety (from the grocery store).
Next, I cleaned and cut into chunks 2 yellow squash, 1 zucchini, 4-5 peeled garlic cloves (left whole), 2 yellow onions (peeled and cut into chunks), and 6 carrots (peeled and cut into chunks) -my favorite vegetable!
Line a large roasting pan with parchement paper. Add the raw vegetables and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle about 1-2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning and coat the vegetables thoroughly.
NOTE: I make my own Italian seasoning with fresh rosemary from my garden. I’ll share the recipe with you sometime – it smells heavenly!
Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes – until tender and slightly browned. Gently stir the vegetables after about 10 minutes of cooking.
In my Lodge enameled stock pot, I added the roasted vegetables, 2 containers of San Marzano whole tomatoes, and 2 boxes of organic vegetable broth. Also, added about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (I like the tube variety).
I make homemade basil pesto with fresh basil from my garden. So, I added an 8-ounce jar of my homemade pesto to the pot along with a crushed bay leaf.
Bring to a slight boil, then simmer on low for 30 minutes.
Serve with grated parmesan cheese, sprinkling of dried basil leaves and bread of your choice.
NOTE: I am lactose intolerant so I don’t add any dairy other than the parmesan cheese. I can tolerate the parmesan cheese so that is my dairy fix!
Enjoy! A grilled cheese would be awesome. Sometime I will share my daughter’s recipe for 3-cheese grilled cheese – my grandson loves it!
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
My daughters and I enjoy the War Eagle Fall Arts and Crafts Fair. It is one of our favorite things to do together. Months in advance, we mark it on our calendars and begin talking about the fun we will have together. My two daughters and I drive up to Northwest Arkansas on Friday and go to as many crafts fairs as we can and spend most of Saturday walking through the War Eagle craft booths.
It is a weekend just as much about the food as it is the crafts.
One year we arrived very early to eat breakfast at the famous War Eagle Mill restaurant. We shopped in the downstairs gift shop, then made our way upstairs to the 2nd floor to enjoy our breakfast. A line was beginning to form, and usually, that means something good is about to happen, and we were not disappointed. We enjoyed a plate of eggs, biscuits, pancakes, gravy, sausage, and bacon with hot chocolate and juice. YUM! It was a cold morning, and the hot breakfast warmed us for a day of oohing and aahing at crafts and creative art.
Another food favorite at the War Eagle Craft Fair is the Apflestrudels!
Many events in 2020 have been canceled, including the annual fall War Eagle Craft Fair, so I attempted to recreate the War Eagle Apfelstrudel, and it took a couple of tries to get it just right.
The first time the pastry was tasty but chewy. The second and third attempts were near perfection and delicious! The pastry was light and buttery, with the apple filling tender and flavorful. The maple-vanilla glaze added another dimension, enhancing the fall flavor. Honeycrisp apples are one of my favorites, so that is what I used in the latest rendition, but any variety of apples will work.
In all of the changes this year, God has provided many opportunities to remain strong and courageous. At the beginning of the COVID-19 quarantine, I baked and baked scrumptious foods like cinnamon rolls, raspberry rolls, brownies, cookies, French croissants, morning buns, chocolate pies, fried apple pies, and more and more. Yummy! In reflection, I can see that through baking, I can control the ingredients, measure, mix, and even turn on the oven and set the temperature. In April, I started making lists of people I know who are hurting from life challenges and people for whom I have great admiration and gratefulness because of their positive impact on my life. During physical distancing and with a mask on, I have delivered baked goods to front porches with a text to my friend upon delivery. We give a distanced greeting to each other with a wave and an air hug.
Joshua 1:9 is a reminder from the Lord to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.”
Just as Joshua was to draw his strength from the Lord God, we, too, are not to be dependent on our intelligence, brute strength, and experiences. We are to place our trust in the Lord our God. He has promised to be with us wherever we go. Amen to this promise!
I have learned that being strong and courageous also means encouraging those around me to be strong and courageous. Life is just hard, and people are hurting. I ask God to send me people to share my gift of baking and serving. I pray my service is a blessing to the receiver because I know I am encouraged to do the service.
How do I do this? What are my 1-2-3 steps?
I really do not know. What I do know is to read God’s word every day. I see two basic concepts that help me to grasp what this means ultimately.
First, I immerse a part of each day in God’s word. I read, ponder, write in my journal, write prayers, and give thanks for all that God blesses me within this life of mine. I look for things in my day to show gratitude, and I write them in my journal. Then, I pray to thank God.
Second, when I am in the worst of times and in the best of times, I am reminded God is always with me and goes with me wherever I go. He is my leader, the frontman, and guide. God protects me and gives me the wisdom to take wise steps. He serves as my rear-guard and protects me from behind. God is committed to being with me all the days of my life.
He provides the strength and courage I need every day.
I am grateful to Lord Jesus, my God, and the Holy Spirit for being with me every moment of every day.
I am grateful for people to bake for and serve.
I am grateful God gifted me with the desire to bake, cook, try out recipes, and share with friends and family.
I am grateful God blesses me with a well-equipped kitchen and ingredients.
I am grateful for the means to purchase quality ingredients and the necessary tools to bake.
I am grateful for my family and dear friends who are willing to try out my latest baking adventure!
My ministry is through sharing my gift of baking. So that you can share, too, here is my recipe – adapted from several other bakers, and I appreciate them sharing their wisdom both online and in cookbooks.
I think my office folks enjoyed the Apflestrudlel!
Here is my recipe I used to make the Apfelstrudel. Enjoy!
Pastry (makes 2 pie shells):
2 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur is my favorite)
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons Crisco, cold
5 tablespoons ice-cold water
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the Crisco to the flour mixture using a pastry blender just until it is pea-sized crumbs. With a fork, add the ice-cold water 1 tablespoon at a time gently incorporating each tablespoon at a time to the flour mixture. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 30 minutes. DO NOT KNEAD the pastry – gently mix the ingredients and form into a ball. Use the entire pastry ball for the Apfelstrudel. Roll out on a lightly floured parchment paper to a rectangle about 10” x 13”. Transfer the pastry on the parchment paper to a flat cookie sheet (I like DoughMaker baking pans).
While the pastry is chilling, mix up the apple filling.
3 medium-sized apples, cored, peeled, and cut into small 1” squares (any variety or use a mixture of your favorite apples OR just what you have on hand)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of brown sugar, packed
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon of milk (see note below*)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush, cover the pastry square with melted butter (about 1 tablespoon). Mix the chopped apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and walnuts. Add 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Spoon the apple mixture down the center (lengthwise) of the pastry rectangle. Make 1 inch wide slits out to the side of the apple mixture. Fold the end of the pastry over the apple mixture and criss-cross the pastry over the apple mixture down the center. See the completed apple strudel for a guide.
Brush apple strudel pastry with 1 tablespoon of milk (*I use lactose-free since I am lactose intolerant but I’m sure whole milk or heavy whipping cream adds great flavor). The milk helps the pastry create a golden brown color while baking.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. Then, reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender (check with a toothpick).
½ cup confectioner’s sugar heaped measurement
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
Blend with a whisk and drizzle over the apple strudel. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the maple-vanilla glaze. I like it as a warm pastry but room temperature is good, too.
In December of 2019, I decided to choose a word to carry me through 2020. Selecting a “word” for the year was a first for me, and at the time, I did not realize the positive impact of choosing JOY would have on me in 2020.
I have learned that gratitude is the mother of JOY, and throughout 2020, I have learned it is not joy that makes me grateful; it is gratitude that makes me joyful!
Gratitude is a whole way of looking at life. For me, gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful; it is a general state of thankfulness and appreciation.
I have given a lot of thought to making gratitude a daily choice. Some people may think gratitude is a pleasant emotion that comes and goes, and something celebrated on the Thanksgiving holiday. However, I have found that genuine gratitude is about finding the good in others, my surroundings, and in myself every day.
A friend shared a text with me. She wrote, “Well, that bread was a HUGE hit!”
Her youngest daughter said, “This is DE-licious!” after one bite of my homemade sourdough bread.
Her sister said, “That crust is so good… it’s like it…” and her brother finished her thought by saying, “Well, she loves us so much she must have sprinkled it with LUUUV!”
Her husband said, “Well, mom, I think we need a bread starter!”
My friend said, “I just sat without saying words, letting the occasional ‘Mmmmm’ spill from my lips!! It is amazing and we thank you for your kindness!”
So long as thankfulness is possible, then joy is always possible.
Baking my homemade sourdough bread takes time, it is messy, and I have to plan because it is a 3-day process.
As messy and time consuming that bread baking can be, I am grateful for the Lord’s gift to bake and for the pull to take a loaf to my sweet friend and her family. I am thankful she was my graduate assistant “back in the day,” and we have remained friends for life. The gratefulness from her family has filled my heart.
One of the incredible truths about gratitude is that it is impossible to feel both the positive emotion of thankfulness and a negative emotion such as anxiety or fear at the same time.
As I practice gratitude, I am learning to focus on the present and to be in the moment. I listen for the leaves rustling, the rain splattering, and the chatter of children. I am finding joy in my daily life.
I am learning to literally rewrite the neural pathways in my brain by choosing gratitude because life is complicated, messy, and takes time. I am learning to be happy right now and to finish strong while living with a grateful heart.
I am grateful for the gift of baking and sharing it with others.
I am grateful to realize my baking is a gift from God, and he encourages me to serve others for Him.
I am grateful to have the heart to look for ways to serve through baking.
I am grateful for ingredients to bake, a kitchen with working appliances, and the tools to make baking easier.
I am grateful for family and friends who enjoy my baking.
I am grateful for a fresh today and I look forward to tomorrow.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1: 17
“…each of you has your own gift from God: one has this gift, another has that.” I. Corinthians 7:7
A few weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail detailing the worker’s compensation I should be receiving for losing my job. My first thought was “Oh my, I have been fired, laid off or will be very soon!” Then, the human resource office from my place of employment contacted me about an unemployment compensation request they received in my name. To say the least, my heart stopped beating and I broke out in a sweat! Since I am employed full-time, HR sent me a link to contact the appropriate offices to file a report of fraudulent activity with my personal identity information.
Upon filing a police report, I learned that a crime family has filed more than 40,000 unemployment claims fraudulently and that is just in Arkansas. The crime family obtained social security numbers and detailed employment information to take advantage of the COVID online claim system.
When this happens, the Attorney General advises to make contact with the police, the social security office, the bank, the unemployment claims office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the credit bureaus in addition to putting fraud alerts on accounts and 7-year extended fraud alerts on credit reports. It is truly a hassle!
I pray that I am contacting all of the “right” offices.
Therefore, I bake.
I bake to release tension and stress. I bake to create. I bake to show my gratitude to dear friends who support me on this journey. I bake to feel my Danish bread whisk blend together the flour, sugar, eggs, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla flavoring. I bake to smell the pumpkin and cinnamon in my kitchen.
I baked pumpkin bread for a dear friend who is recovering from heart surgery. I sat at her kitchen table and listened to her telling me how life has changed. She shared with me how much she misses her husband who passed away recently. I set up a card table in her garage for the grocery delivery person because she cannot pick up heavy items. She asked me to come back to see her again soon. In this short visit I again recognized, the credit identity theft is an inconvenience, but people are most important.
I walked back to my car reminding myself my identity is not in this earthly world. My identity is eternal. A credit report, a social security number, and a credit score do not define my identity. My identity is who I am becoming. My journey on earth massages me into the woman God planned for me to become, and He is where I find my identity.
I am grateful for systems and processes to follow when fraudulent activity occurs.
I am grateful for people in these offices willing to help with compassion.
I am grateful for pumpkins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla flavoring.
I am grateful for crisp fall weather, eating outside on the patio, and needing a light jacket.
I am grateful for my family and friends in heaven cheering me on.
I am grateful for my family and friends on earth cheering me on.
I am grateful for God the Father, my Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit watching out for me and guiding me through this life towards a home in heaven.
When I feel anxious, and overwhelmed, I find that making time to do what I love helps me maintain balance in my life. Baking provides for me an enjoyable experience because it is a known structure and utilizes my experiences and skill-set to create delicious outcomes.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this working in my flow with such intensity that there is no attention left over to worry about life issues. Baking helps me with that balance so I can focus on things I am grateful for which leads to more fully experiencing happiness and joy.
Harding University offers to faculty the opportunity to live and teach for a semester in Italy. One summer my family lived in Harding’s Italian Villa in the hills of Tuscany. We traveled throughout Italy and visited France during a week of traveling Europe. While in Europe visiting coffee bars (we call them cafés), I learned the art of enjoying beautifully handcrafted pastries. Eating in the many coffee bars sparked my interest in mastering European pastries and this spring I was able to continue on my baking journey.
One of my favorite Italian coffee bars in Florence is Caffe’ Gilli. Their window display is overwhelmingly enticing and pulls me in to get a pastry with my tea.
So, during the COVID-19 “stay at home” period, I perfected baking French croissant rolls. For my birthday one year, my friend, Jan, gifted me with the San Francisco Tartine Bakery cookbook and I mostly follow the croissant roll recipe in their cookbook.
The preparation process is soothing to my baking soul and I find comfort in opening up my kitchen pantry and pulling out the flour, sugar, and salt. The rhythm of opening the refrigerator to gather eggs, butter and milk is calming. The pulse of selecting the just right mixing bowl, measuring cups and using my mom’s metal measuring teaspoon sustains the artistic DNA in me. I find delight in choosing between my new French, piano and Danish dough whisks and I thoroughly enjoy using my Carrara marble rolling pin! It makes me happy to use fun and high-quality ingredients and tools while creating.
Reading and re-reading the recipe is delightful for me because I see cooking as similar to developing a story with more successes than challenges, and, most always, has a beautiful (and delicious) ending. Accurate measuring, mixing and kneading the dough gives me satisfaction and cultivates a sense of purpose in creating “flow” time. Being in my kitchen helps sustain me when I cannot make sense of the world around me.
Here are a few pictures of my creative work in my kitchen including my laminated croissant dough ready for the freezer.
I do not always get it perfect but when I get it right – it is really delicious and beautiful!
I am grateful for family and good friends who know me well and still accept me!
I am grateful for working appliances and equipment to support my baking addiction.
I am grateful for the finances to purchase good quality ingredients.
I am grateful for family and friends who are willing to try out my baking adventures.
I am grateful for using my gifts to serve others.
I am grateful that gratitude enhances happiness and joy.
I am grateful for the gift of baking – it truly sustains me and I get to share with friends and family.
A leading scholar on gratitude, Dr. Robert Emmons, notes that “being grateful is an acknowledgement that there are good and enjoyable things in the world.” I agree with him and one of the ways I find joy is baking in my kitchen.
Be strong. Be brave. Be fearless. You are never alone. Joshua 1:9 Sometimes I forget who I am and to whom I belong. Joshua reminds me I am never alone and to be strong and courageous. My kitchen helps me to reconnect to the woman I am and the woman I am becoming. I am grateful.
From the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus, she expressed gratitude when her New Jersey husband was released from ICU.
She thanked her church family for praying him out of the “enemy’s grasp.” She stated she “wholeheartedly believes that it was the fervent prayers of our church family, blood family, friends, and neighbors banging on Heaven’s doors that brought my husband, the father of my children back home to us.”
She found miracles in the mess and trusted God with the message planted in her heart.
One of my favorite music groups is Mercy Me. In one of their songs, Even If, the lyrics bring me comfort when troubles of life seem overwhelming.
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone.
Psychologists have found in their studies where gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Other studies have shown that grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence – factors that translate into a healthier and happier life.
Does gratitude take away the storms, fears and hurts? No.
But Gratitude DOES help make sense of the past while bringing peace for today and hope for tomorrow.
For today –
I am grateful for the rain.
I am grateful for online worship.
I am grateful for my family and friends.
I am grateful for Face-Time, electronic pictures, cell phones and text messages.
I am grateful for health providers, medical clean-up crews, food providers, and delivery folks.
I am grateful for God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
I am grateful for the Resurrection.
I am grateful for Faith, Hope and Love.
I am grateful for chocolate Easter bunnies!
God has provided miracles in the mess of this life with a message for us today – He is risen and we have hope.
Many blessings and stay healthy!
Lagniappe (featured image)
French hand-sewn dresses I made for my twin granddaughters born December 20, 2019.
One of my favorite early childhood books is from author and illustrator Charles Shaw’s book It Looked Like Spilt Milk. Since I was a child my mind can get in the clouds and I dream. I dream of what was, what is and what is to come. I see images in clouds. The clouds become a Great Pyrenees dog. Recently I saw an angel with outstretched wings and the sun shining through it. Today the clouds provided me with an image of angel hair blowing in the wind.
Watching the clouds and imaging what God has is store for me reminds me of Psalm 91:4 – He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:4
Today I am grateful for:
God’s shadow is close to me and I can rest in Him
My mom’s love for August Beauty gardenia bushes.
Moving mom’s gardenia bushes to my front flower beds.