Comfort Food For The Soul

Photo via Wikipedia, Public Domain

When you’re feeling stressed, do you reach for comfort food?

Many of us do.

This is perfectly understandable. We’ve been dealing with a pandemic for several years, and are now facing additional crises, including war and rising inflation.

Who would blame us for reaching for cookies, ice cream, fried foods or nostalgic casseroles to console us, even if they can only do so temporarily?

But is there a more lasting source of comfort, preferably one that’s low in fat and calories?

Yes, there is…

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Stay With The Tried And True

Old family cookbooks of the author’s.

Do you have a collection of old family recipes or cookbooks?

Many of us are fortunate enough to have such treasures, lovingly passed down to us. They’re worth hanging on to.

The recipes might be contained in a cookbook, or written down on index cards and filed in a plastic or wooden box. They may be handwritten and neatly organized in a binder, or simply clipped from the newspaper and stuffed haphazardly into the pages of an old cookbook.

But no matter how the recipes are filed, there’s an easy way to tell which ones are the best:

The pages they’re on are a bit of a mess.

The best recipes probably have food stains on them, from when a cook referred to the recipe and absentmindedly pressed a finger, still wet with sauce or melted chocolate, on the page. Or the page got splattered when the cook was stirring the batter with a bit too much gusto.

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Get Ready For God To Act

Image by webvilla from Pixabay

When you read a cake or muffin recipe, it will usually instruct you to preheat your oven and get your baking pans prepared before describing how to make the dessert itself.

But why do it in this order? Why not make the batter first, and let it sit there in the bowl while you leisurely grease or line the baking pans and let the oven slowly heat up?

There’s a very good reason to have everything prepared before you start the actual baking, and it has to do with how leaveners behave.

As soon as a raising agent like baking soda comes into contact with the liquids in your cake batter, a chemical reaction starts to take place. Gases are generated, and bubbles begin forming. You want those bubbles to stay trapped inside the cake to give it loft and airiness.

If you let the batter sit there on the counter for too long, the gases would escape into the air. This would prevent your finished cake from being as light and fluffy as it could be. So as soon as the leavening agent is added and mixed in, put the batter into the prepared pan and get it into the heated oven as quickly as you can.

It’s the same way in life, isn’t it?

When God adds the circumstance or person that will be a catalyst to change your situation, things often begin moving very fast. If you’re not ready, it might catch you off guard. You may end up stumbling instead of stepping confidently into the new level God has in mind for you. You might not rise as high as you could have.

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The Banana Paradox

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Who doesn’t like banana cake?

Even people who won’t eat bananas seem to like banana cake or bread. It seems to be one of those desserts that is universally liked. In fact, each year we celebrate National Banana Bread Day on February 23rd.

And what kind of bananas do you use to make a banana cake? Only the most uniformly yellow, firm, spot-free, perfect ones, right?

Wrong.

Counterintuitively, banana cake or bread is made using mushy, overripe, spotted, or even brownish-black bananas. The kind that no grocery store would even think of trying to sell. The kind that look sort of yucky, to be honest. The kind no one wants to eat. The kind that was used as an insult in the Christmas song about Mr. Grinch: “You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!”

Whenever we had those sorts of bananas in the kitchen when I was little, my Dad would say to my Mom, “Honey, why don’t you throw those things out? They look awful!”

My mother would interpose her body protectively between my Dad and the bananas and say, “No, no! I’m saving them for a banana cake.”

You see, Mom understood the banana paradox. She knew that the mushiest bananas make the best cake. She could see beyond the decaying exterior to what the banana could become.

She saw what my Dad couldn’t see: their potential.

In the same way, God can see beyond our faults and failures to what we can become. God sees the potential in people who have been written off by others, who seem to have disqualified themselves from ever achieving anything great for the Kingdom. God can still use those of us who feel our record is too spotty, that we have too many black marks against us.

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How To Become A Loaf Of Bread

Imagine that you’re a ball of bread dough (for some of us whose figures are a bit “doughy,” this isn’t much of a stretch).

You’ve had your ingredients mixed together nicely, and you’ve been resting for a while after all that effort. You feel good: you’ve even risen higher. It won’t be long now until you become a beautiful loaf of bread.

But wait! What’s that coming toward you? It’s a fist! Someone is actually punching you! You feel yourself deflate, and lose a lot of your volume. Then you’re lifted out of the warm bowl you were in and slapped onto a counter. Ouch! That hurt! The hands are now kneading and pummelling you. You wish they could be a bit more gentle.

Finally, it stops. Thank goodness! That was excruciating! You’re now resting back in your bowl in a warm spot, with a tea towel over you to protect you from drafts and from drying out. You can relax now. At least all that pain is over with.

Or is it? Some time later, here come the hands again. They lift the tea towel and begin punching you down anew, just when you’d risen to your previous height. Not again! You’ve got to be kidding! Wasn’t once enough? Once more, you’re kneaded and prodded, stretched and pressed down hard. What good could this possibly be doing you?

When all the pummelling is finished, you’re shaped and placed into a loaf pan. At least it’s cozy here, and the hands have disappeared for a while. You can rest again. Surely nothing worse will happen to you.

But then suddenly you’re thrust into a searing oven. Yikes, that’s hot! You feel your insides begin to transform, and your surface start to turn brown.

You’re becoming a loaf of bread after all.

But why all the trouble and pain? Was it really necessary?

Yes, because that’s what gave you a finer texture.

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Freshly Baked Mercies

Isn’t it nice to eat something that’s freshly made?

There’s nothing quite like bread that was baked just hours ago, slathered with butter. French people know this: they go to the market each day to buy freshly baked baguettes or croissants.

Others like freshly squeezed orange juice in the mornings, or freshly brewed coffee.

A favourite treat of mine (at any time of the day) is freshly made brownies, still warm from the oven.

No one really likes leftovers (although leftover brownies are still pretty good!). But we love it when someone give us something that they baked fresh just for us.

God knows this, too.

That’s why He offers us fresh mercies every day, newly baked.

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Fear Of Missing Out

Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay

Do you suffer from FOMO?

No, it isn’t some dreaded disease.

Rather, FOMO stands for “Fear Of Missing Out.”

It’s a natural human tendency to worry that we might be losing out on something that others are enjoying or acquiring.

This trepidation can sometimes filter into our spiritual lives, as well.

We might be afraid that if we do things God’s way, we’ll somehow miss out on something.

Perhaps we won’t get to do the things we really want in life, or we’ll have to give up some things we’re already doing. We fear we’ll miss out on all the fun.

We fear God might withhold something crucial from our lives, and our “cake” won’t rise without it: our life will feel diminished.

But we needn’t worry. God only withholds things for our good, and He won’t deprive us of things we truly need.

Our cake will still rise as believers, but on God’s terms.

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All in Good Time

They say cooking is an art, but baking is a science.

Part of what makes baking scientific is that it often calls for exact timing.

When you cook a roast or a turkey in the oven, the estimated cooking time can vary. The meat will be in the oven for several hours, and the recipe might give you as much as a half-hour window to start checking for doneness.

But when you’re baking cookies, the recipe will sometimes only give you a two-minute span to remove them from the oven. You have to be on your toes so you don’t miss this window, but at least you have a greater degree of certainty as to when the baking process will be over.

We humans crave certainty, don’t we? And that’s especially true when we’re going through difficult things in our personal lives.

Wouldn’t you love it if God told us exactly when our time of suffering would end?

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The Best Fire Protection

Baked Alaska dessert set alight. Image by Vxla on Flickr. CC BY-2.0

Baked Alaska is one of those desserts that seems like it will end in disaster.

This dessert involves covering a core of ice cream and cake with meringue and baking it at 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. Really.

Who puts ice cream in a hot oven anyway?

Surely it will result in a melted mess, and you’ll be spending the next hour resentfully scrubbing out your oven.

But Baked Alaska will surprise and amaze you.

When you take this dessert out of the oven after a few minutes, you find that the meringue has cooked and slightly browned, but the ice cream underneath it is still cold and has retained its firm shape. The ice cream inside the “igloo” has remained untouched by the intense heat.

It seems miraculous, because you’d think that ice cream would melt when it came anywhere near temperatures that high. It’s not actually a miracle, however, but rather a clever application of physics. The dessert was invented in the 1800s by American physicist Benjamin Thompson, who was investigating the insulating properties of whipped egg whites.

If you want a genuine example of miraculous protection from a hot oven, you need to go the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.

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Bring Out The Big Guns

The Tsar Cannon, the Kremlin, Moscow.
Image by Tatyana Kazakova from Pixabay

Have you ever had a day when you simply needed chocolate?

Maybe you faced some problems, and needed a pick-me-up. Or you were dealing with a heartbreak and needed a balm for your ragged emotions.

And you knew that milk chocolate just wouldn’t cut it, let alone white chocolate.

It required the stronger stuff. You needed to bring out the big guns to help you cope with your challenges:

Dark chocolate.

Only the intense flavour and strength of chocolate with over 80% cocoa solids would do the trick. Nothing else would suffice.

Sometimes we reach a similar point in our spiritual lives, too.

The Christian life isn’t all a bed of roses. Oftentimes we face desperate circumstances, and we may find ourselves in a heap on the floor, crying our eyes out.

Maybe we’ve received a scary diagnosis from the doctor. We might have been let go from our job. Or our family might be in crisis: our marriage is in tatters or our children have gone astray.

We need help that is grounded in the gritty reality of what we’re facing. Sunny bromides like “Don’t worry, be happy” just won’t cut it.

We need to bring out the big guns.

We need the Psalms.

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