Friday, October 21, 2011

AMH Cooks: Alabama Fire Crackers

       Sooooooo being raised down South I tend to get homesick every once in a while...especially at this time of year because it's SEC time. Which, for those of you that don't know....that means college
football. That is a really big deal in Alabama and the other parts of the south too, but of course I'm biased to my home state and my home football team of Auburn. When I feel homesick I tend to think about anything that reminds me of back home. Of course some would say, "Well you aren't Southern anymore've lived in Connecticut longer than you lived in Alabama."'s true I have lived in Connecticut for 22 years now and only in Alabama for the first 14 years of my life...but what non-Southerners don't know and can't ever really understand is that being Southern isn't just an's part of our DNA. It never leaves us....we are a part of that land as much as the red clay that forms it. Of course I love my New England home too (minus the politics) and all of my friends and family here, but my antebellum roots are always there and I want to share as much of them with you as I can.
Now I have all kinds of Southern recipes from my family and from my time down there,.....but  this is not one of them....LOL. This recipe I actually found a little over a year ago and was initially drawn to it because it's named after Alabama. HOWEVER, once you try these simple little crackers you may never want to go without them again. They are AMAZING!  So, enjoy and let me know what you think. They are a great game time snack that is super easy and super inexpensive to make. I also included some alternative uses for them at the bottom.
  Alabama Fire Crackers

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (1 ounce) envelopes ranch dressing mix
1 (1 ounce) envelopes Italian dressing mix
3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 (16.5 ounce) box Nabisco unsalted saltine crackers

Whisk all ingredients (EXCEPT THE CRACKERS) together until thoroughly mixed then pour into a 2-gallon plastic zipper bag. Place the crackers into the bag, seal, and gently turn the bag over to cover all the crackers with the spice mix. Let the bag sit for about 1 hour, then gently turn again. Repeat several more times until the crackers are well-coated with spice mix, then allow the bag to sit overnight. In the morning, remove crackers and serve. *Note: If you feel they are a bit too oily for your taste then you can spread them onto a cookie sheet and let them dry in a 200 degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.

They are great for snacking on by themselves or along with soups, chili, salad, even tuna and chicken salad. If you can't or don't want to use them all as crackers to munch on you can also crush them and use them for breading on pork chops, chicken or fish.You can use them like you would regular crackers in meatloaf or meatballs. You can also use them to make a crust for a meat pie or for add ins to casseroles like broccoli casserole. The possibilities are endless really because you can also use different kinds of crackers. Try it with Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Goldfish, Oyster crackers....Club crackers or Ritz...get creative!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Living A Flavorful Life

I want to talk to you about budgeting....relax though, I'm not talking about money. Nope, I'm talking about our lives. Do you feel over stressed and exhausted? Have you ever said or thought, there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything I need to get done...DONE!" I have....many times. Have you resorted to naming your dust bunnies and calling them pets because you barely have time to clean or purchasing new underwear because you haven't done laundry yet and that's easier than feeling like a domestic failure? I have. Have you ever felt guilty because it feels like the only time you go to God is when you need something or you're in trouble? I have.
How would you like to never feel like that again? How would you like to have time to get everything done that needs to get done including housework and STILL have a relationship with God and those you love? I would....and I think you would too. So here is what I believe God has been showing me so that I can get to that point.

We need to create a Life Budget. Afterall, if we want to get out of financial debt we create a spending budget right? So if we want to get out of life debt then we need to create a life budget.
Every person around the globe is given the same amount of time in every day and every week,168 hours. It's how we allot those hours that make or break us. So here is a basic beginning budget.

-16.8 for God
(That's 2 hours and 24 minutes a day to: daily bible reading and prayer, church, home groups, charity work, reaching out to others with a purpose, i.e. relationship building, mentoring)

If you are Christian, then you're familiar with the 10% tithe we give back to the church financially. So this should make perfect sense to you. If we expect God to work in our lives, then we need to make giving back to Him a priority and give him a 10% "Life Tithe". This is your one principal that will not change because the rest of your week will be built around this foundation. Will every day have 2 hours and 24 minutes set aside for this? No....some may be more, some may be less. Sundays may use up 4 of those hours if you're involved in a helping ministry like, childcare, greeting or cleanup. If you do other charity work that may take a significant amount of time doesn't really matter how you allot that long as you do allot it every week. I do however suggest that you allot AT LEAST 1 hour a day to Bible reading and personal prayer time. It may sound like a lot....but it will set the pace for your entire day and prepare you for how to handle all those curve balls we are hit with in life.

-40 work 
(travel time can be used for something else, like prayer, or mentoring via phone, or quality family time talking with your kids or spouse.)
-56 sleep 
(based on an 8 hour night. Try it...your body and those around you will thank you.)
-7 hours 
(1 hour day house maintenance)

At this point you still have 48.2 hours to work with! That's still 6.8 hours a day!

-14 meal prep and consumption 
(2 hours a day, 7 days a week to fit in all home meals. It may not sound like much, but if you are the average working family these will probably be surprised that you suddenly have time to sit down and have a meal as a family.)

If you are involved in any activity that takes multiple hours from one haven't lost that's just been re-allotted to another day now and you can make it work for you, your schedule and your life! For example; you had to work late, you got stuck in traffic, one kid has a soccer game and the other a flute lesson and all you have time for is a bag of something thrown through a drive thru window at you. Ok, life happens....embrace it. NOWWWW you can take that time and allot it to another day. It's ok....

This now leaves us with 34.2 hours......4.8 hours a day. How will you fill those last 4 hours and 48 minutes of your day?

-spouse or significant other
-children and/or pets
-flex time

My readers from other countries may look at this and think, That's crazy! Why do they have to schedule these things? For us American's however, we know how much we have allowed other things to cause us to live within the red of our life budget. We're tired, cranky, stressed and empty. If we want to live the life that God has given us and live it to the best and really learn to radiate all the things we have in our heart. Then we need to start by giving the first portion of our week and our days to God so that He can fill us up and prepare us for what is ahead.

Matthew 5:13,14 (AMP)

13You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.

I don't know about you, but I don't want my "busyness" to cause me to lose my steength or quality as a Christian. I need this life about you?
So, now that you've read this....don't just read and run....leave a comment, let me know what you think. Have ideas for or other readers to make this work even better? Leave a comment. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Song of the Season

As I write this I'm sitting near an open window and can hear the beautiful sound of a mockingbird singing from the top of a giant fir tree across the street. He's soooo excited and vibrant as he announces to the entire neighborhood that he's there. I love the sounds of birds singing, especially mocking birds. Suddenly a wealth of memories flood my heart and mind. Chilly Sunday mornings at my grandmother's house eating cheese toast and getting ready for church. Crisp Saturday mornings driving along with my mom and patrolling tag sales. School mornings standing in front of our kitchen window with the sun streaming in through the branches of a neighbors tree and closing my eyes in the warmth. All of those memories have one thing in common for me....the ever present sound of bird songs.  To me they represent morning and life for a new day.

 I'm especially focused on savoring every single note today because it will only be a few more weeks and then that sound will be gone for months. Winters in Connecticut can certainly be beautiful to look at when the snow and ice come...but the only nature sound that will fill the air will be the stark and lonely sounds of crows and seagulls and I will dearly miss the happy little songs of the warmer weather. Unfortunately it's just a simple side affect of the changing seasons. I realize however, that if it weren't for that gaping span of time without it..I wouldn't properly appreciate when they return.

Just like anything else in life really. I used to love Chinese food....until I worked across the street from a restaurant and ate it every day for almost a year. Suddenly I didn't feel the same about it...the appreciation was gone. Last Winter I couldn't wait for the warm weather of Summer....until the sweltering heat and humidity hit me and made me long for cooler days. Whether it's a season of weather or a season of life....change is good and variety is essential...for many reasons. It makes us appreciate things more and realize the value each brings. So today Ime going to appreciate the birds singing....and tomorrow I will do my best to appreciate something else current to the day.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & 11 (NLT)

1 For everything there is a season,
      a time for every activity under heaven.
 2 A time to be born and a time to die.
      A time to plant and a time to harvest.
 3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
      A time to tear down and a time to build up.
 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
      A time to grieve and a time to dance.
 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
      A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
      A time to keep and a time to throw away.
 7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
      A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
 8 A time to love and a time to hate.
      A time for war and a time for peace.   
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 
What are you appreciating today?

AMH Cooks: Sofrito & Recaito

I wanted to get back to the recipes portion of this blog for a moment. by sharing two recipes that I love and use often.

Connecticut has a huge Puerto Rican population and I have come to love a lot of the foods that they make. I've also come to appreciate a lot of the seasonings that they use and have come to use a lot of them in my own cooking. These are two staple items that are used in Puerto Rican cooking and if you don't live in an area that offers large ethnic grocery sections like I do then you can make them yourself. Also, if you just prefer fresh then you can make them yourself.  So far these are the best recipes I have found for them and they both come from Daisy Martinez, the host of tv's Daisy Cooks. If you've never tried Spanish food...please give it a try, you won't regret it. If you've never seen Daisy's show..please check it out...she's AMAZING!!! So, on that note, here are her recipes that I use all the time and highly recommend!

Sofrito - Can be used in almost every dish. Similar to how a lot of people use season salt in almost everything....this has the same amount of flexibility. From rice and vegetable dishes to soups and sauces, to meats and seafood, etc. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Once you try it, you will look for ways to use it. It can also be frozen and used as needed.
2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch cilantro, washed
7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro
3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
Makes about 4 cups
Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
If you can’t find ajices dulces or culantro, simply up the amount of cilantro to 1 ½ bunches

Recaito - I love this in all kinds of things just like sofrito. Both are excellent, but this has a distinctly fresher taste to me which I think lends itself better to things like bean soups and meat dishes. It's AMAZING on a pork roast! Although I will also mix it with mayonnaise and make a very nice spread for sandwiches. Just like sofrito, it can get you out of almost any kitchen emergency. It also freezes very well so make extra and keep it on hand..
Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 medium Spanish onion, cut into big chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled
6 ajicitos dulces (see recipe for Sofrito) or 1 cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into chunks
4 leaves culantro (if you can't find culantro, increase the amount of Iajicitos or cilantro by half)
6 big sprig cilantro, stems and all, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup packed)

Place the onion and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients, one at a time and process, until the mixture is smooth. 

Please make sure when you are purchasing your ajices dulces that you in fact do have that pepper, not just aji pepper or habanero. Ajices dulces are sweet with no heat at all.
Whatever extra amounts you have can be poured into ice trays, frozen and then bagged for later use.
Hope you enjoy and let me know how you have used these recipes! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

There's A Fly In My Life

*Side note: Before I go any further I need to apologize to Lori from Beyond The Bass Clef because she HATES flies and I know when she sees this picture she's going to freak out. 

Sorry Lori...nothing personal. ;) 

Ecclesiastes 10:1 (NLT)

As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, 

so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.

I'm amazed sometimes the Bible verses that I forget about until God reminds me about them. This is one of those. Sometimes in life we get comfortable....not a bad thing in many ways, but it becomes problematic when it causes us to become sloppy. We let our guard down and that's when we become vulnerable...vulnerable to get hurt and vulnerable to hurt others. Neither is a good thing. A sloppy Christian is a dangerous Christian, because when we're sloppy we aren't operating at our proper capacity. I saw a bumper sticker recently that said it perfectly, " You never know when you're making a memory." . Sooooooo true! We never know who is watching us or when, so it is all the more important that we NEVER let our guard down and get sloppy.  Clarke's Commentary on the Bible says it best when it discusses the Bible verse I posted above.

" Dead flies - Any putrefaction spoils perfume; and so a foolish act ruins the character of him who has the reputation of being wise and good. Alas! alas! in an unguarded moment how many have tarnished the reputation which they were many years in acquiring! Hence, no man can be said to be safe, till he is taken to the paradise of God."

Unfortunately none of us is immune because the enemy is always looking for us to slip up so he can sneak in and if possible destroy our character and reputation that we have spent so many long hard years to build up. We must be constantly vigilant to live our faith in everything we do and never let our guard down. Does it mean we have to be stiff and not enjoy life? Absolutely not! It simply means when we do relax to chat or play with friends, we should never allow our familiarity to be a reason to ignore the sanctions set forth by our faith. 

1 Peter 5:8 (AMP)

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Were We Saved?

  Why were we saved?
 Were we saved for times of ease and privilege?
Were we saved for the sake of our miserable selves?

The answer to no...neither of those is why we were saved. Will ease and privilege come? Possibly....after all, we are God's children and He LOVES to lavish us with blessings large and small just like any healthy parent wants to do for their child. Were we lost and languishing in a pig stye of emotional, mental,physical and spiritual garbage before we were saved? Yes....the very turning point of giving our lives to God is realizing that we are in a place that we shouldn't be and we need a savior to rescue us.

Are those THE reasons we were saved though? Not even close. We were saved so that we can then be a link in the chain to help save others. Look, I'm going to break it down pretty simply. If we only gave our heart to God so He could make our lives easy and clean up the garbage in our lives....then that's kind of like trying to watch a 3d movie without the's blurry and out of focus.

So what does scripture have to say about this question? 1 Peter 2:9 it says,
To "proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 

How do we proclaim His excellencies? Well.....first we have to start by defining what darkness is. Websters defines it as follows.

1dark adj \ˈdärk\

1: devoid or partially devoid of light : not receiving, reflecting, transmitting, or radiating light 
3a : arising from or showing evil traits or desires :  b : dismal, gloomy  c : lacking knowledge or culture d : relating to grim or depressing circumstances 
I think it's safe to say after reading that, that we have all known darkness....and if we have given our lives to God then that darkness is a very stark contrast to the light now in our hearts and lives.
It is that contrast, that difference, that before and after that we are supposed to proclaim. Never to brag or make others still struggling feel like failures....if you remember when you were in that place, feeling like a failure was never a problem. The reason we were saved was so that we can reach out to others who are still enveloped in the darkness of hopelessness and let them know that they are loved, they have a purpose and they don't have to remain in that place. So when ease and privilege are taken away or seem out of reach. When hard times hit and you quite simply don't know what to do...don't complain or get angry...don't drink bitterness because this hasn't gone the way you hoped or expected. Grab onto your faith, get into the word and remember.....those things were never promised to you. Instead look for how God is showing Himself to you every moment of every day because once you get to the other will be proclaiming His excellencies of how He brought you out of darkness and into the light to countless others who need the insight you will have to offer.

2 Corinthians 4:8,9,15,16 (AMP)

8We are hedged in (pressed) on every side [troubled and oppressed in every way], but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; 9We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted [to stand alone]; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed 15For all [these] things are [taking place] for your sake, so that the more grace (divine favor and spiritual blessing) extends to more and more people and multiplies through the many, the more thanksgiving may increase [and rebound] to the glory of God. 16Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day. 

There is Water In The Wilderness


Have you ever felt exiled? Felt like you are walking in the wilderness? 

I'm sure you have....we all have at times. It's a normal part of our life here on earth and as a Christian it's a normal part of our walk and growth. I'm in a season of that right now. Does it mean God isn't there? Not at all. These are the times when He is closer than ever. These are the times when we will look back and say.." hard and painful as it was....I would go through it all over again to get to where I am now." For every thorn there is a rose. For every curse there is a bigger blessing. When your times and seasons of wilderness come, and they will...don't turn your back to God and don't shut down and crumble. Instead latch on to Him stronger than you ever have. Here is a verse He gave me last night and it is giving me great encouragement. I pray it does for you as well when you are in a wilderness season. Always remember, it's not the event(s) that determine our time in the's how we handle it that matters. I pray that you and I handle our times of wilderness with grace, honor and faith.

Isaiah 54:10

The Message (MSG)
 9-10"This exile is just like the days of Noah for me:
   I promised then that the waters of Noah
   would never again flood the earth.
I'm promising now no more anger,
   no more dressing you down.
For even if the mountains walk away
   and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won't walk away from you,
   my covenant commitment of peace won't fall apart."
   The God who has compassion on you says so.