Category Archives: Current Events

Scratch Cooking

If you’re not sure what day it is, let me be the first to say TGIF! I know, I know, one day is the same as another in quarantine. Here in Minnesota our “shelter at home” rule kicks in tonight.

As we face shortages at the store, and maybe because we have time on our hands, more and more people are turning to scratch cooking. So I thought this week I’d share with you some of my favorite made-from-scratch options.

Baked Beans
1 package dry navy beans, covered in water and soaked overnight
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
onions and/or bacon as desired
12 oz tomato juice

Soak beans overnight. In the morning, cook beans and water with a pinch of baking soda on the stovetop for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain.

Place drained beans in a slow cooker, and add the other ingredients. Cook on high at least 6 hours, or low for at least 10. Add water as needed to keep moist.

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Soft White Sandwich Bread (based off a recipe from eHow) – Makes 2 loaves

2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp dry, active yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil
6 cups flour (bread flour is best, but I’ve also made it with all-purpose, whole-wheat pastry flour, or a mixture of half whole wheat and half white flour)

Put the water in your mixer’s bowl and add the sugar and yeast. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then let sit for about ten minutes until there’s a bubbly foam on top of the liquid.

Add the salt and oil to the yeast mixture, then slowly stir in the flour, one cup at a time. When the dough is well-blended, knead it for a few minutes, then place it in a greased bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Allow the dough to rest and rise for about an hour, or until it doubles in size.

Punch down the risen dough, knead for a few minutes, and divide the dough into two portions. Form each into a loaf, and place in greased loaf pans. Cover loaves with clean cloths, and allow to rest and rise for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

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Beer Bread (Missing something for sandwich bread? Maybe you have what you need to make beer bread)

3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 can beer (12 oz)

Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Quickly mix all ingredients together, and spoon into a greased loaf pan. Top with shredded cheese if desired. Bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the loaf size.

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Pancakes from Scratch

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Sift together dry ingredients and place in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in milk, egg, and melted butter. Mix until smooth. Scoop onto a heated griddle. Turn to cook both sides until golden.

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Scalloped Potatoes

8 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
4 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk, gently warmed

Melt butter. Add milk and flour. Stir and cook until thick. Add potatoes and pour into a greased baking dish. You can add cheese, ham, bacon, diced onions, etc. Bake at 350 for one hour.

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I hope this is a valuable resource for you! Stay well!

Fresh Eyes: Another Lesson from Puzzles

I hope you are all healthy, calm, and have plenty of toilet paper. What a surreal couple of weeks we’ve had.

Like many of you, my workplace is closed. I’m staying home, working on things I can do from a distance, and keeping myself busy around the house. My husband is moving our son home from college, so for a few days I’m social distancing with just the dog and the internet for company. Naturally, I decided to pull out a puzzle – the wide, rectangular puzzle that doesn’t fit on my card table.

You know about my puzzle habit; I’ve written about it before. I like the quiet, orderly, accomplishment of a jigsaw puzzle. You can work on them while doing other things, like watching television or talking. You can spend five minutes at the table, or lose hours.

Yesterday I was working on my difficult new puzzle, and the later it got, the harder it was to find the pieces that fit. I thought it was because I did the easier part first. There are a lot of tiny details in this puzzle. I eventually called it a night.

This morning I wandered up to the kitchen and sat down with my coffee. Immediately, I started to see pieces that filled the holes in my puzzle. Pieces were flying into place. I was baffled – I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet!

In that moment I felt like God was speaking to me. “Sometimes you need to step back and take a break to see things clearly.”

In light of current events, that resonated with me deeply!

We suddenly have time on our hands, and we’re inundated with information and misinformation about this virus. People’s lives and livelihoods are in danger. Supplies are hard to find. The future is uncertain. How do we sort through it all, find the truth, and act on it? How do we find peace in the chaos?

The answer is right there in my puzzle lesson – step back, take a break.

Rest on these words:
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

1 Peter 5:17 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Stay healthy and sane, everyone!

5 Steps to Surviving an Election Year

Because I’m an historian, you would think that I’m into politics and current events. But in reality, I dislike the political process. History is done. We can find new evidence, but we can’t change what happened. I love digging for clues and coming up with answers. But current events are a different deal. They’re still unfolding, they’re hard to corroborate, and they’re flat-out rude and contentious.

The Democrats allegedly care about the poor. The Republicans supposedly care about the unborn. The Democrats claim to care about education. The Republicans promise not to raise my taxes. Both sides want what’s best for the country, they just have different ideas about what that is. And I’ve found reasons to appreciate and to hate both sides.

You can try voting for candidates based on their personal merit, but let’s be honest, there isn’t always a candidate with a lot of personal integrity. It takes a certain, shall we say, ego, to want national political office, and driven, leading types tend to be bullies.

And what if neither side puts up a candidate you can respect? You can dig around and vote third party, but both sides will tell you that you’re throwing away your vote. (If enough of us vote third party, though… But that’s a different topic all together). Sadly a lot of us end up voting based on who we think is the “lesser of two evils,” though that still has us voting for “evil.” (maybe not literally evil, but you get the idea)

Don’t even get me started on the ads. For nearly a year leading up to the election there’s a constant hammering of scare tactics, arguing, and intimidation thrown at us with each commercial break. She broke promises. He’s in the pocket of special interests. She wants to take away medicare. He wants to tax you to death. Blah, blah, blah. I swear it’s a miracle we don’t all have some kind of trauma damage by election day.

So how do we survive this election season?

  1. No matter who is in the White House, God is on the throne
    This truth should calm your heart. Historically, America has gone back and forth between conservative and liberal leaders. I honestly think this is part of God’s plan for out nation, because it has kept us from straying too far in either direction. God is not a Republican. God is not a Democrat. God is not an American. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. One election is not the end of the world, because God is still there and He is still in control. Take hope in that.
  2. Pray
    Romans 13:1 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
    1 Timothy 2:1-4 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
    God’s goal is the Heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. But He is aware and involved in our life on Earth, including our politics. Whether your candidate won or lost, pray for those in authority. Pray that God would get hold of their hearts and use them and their decisions for His glory.
  3. Pay attention, but don’t let it consume you
    Ugh, the ads. Right? And the anger! I hate those “news” shows that bring on diametrically opposed people and let them yell at each other on television for an hour. What’s the point? I’ll admit it – I’d rather put on my noise-cancelling headphones than pay attention to a debate. But as a responsible adult, I have to do a lot of things I don’t want to do (paying bills, going to the gym…). Paying attention to the political process is one of those things. We have to know who the political candidates are and what they stand for so we can make an informed decision. Voting is your responsibility as a citizen. Take it seriously. But don’t let it take over your life.
  4. Look for reliable and varied sources
    Listen, if you love Fox News, CNN, or a certain website, and that’s where you get ALL your political information, you will have an imperfect understanding and the biased belief system that they fed to you. As a human being, it is impossible to be unbiased. News sources are run by human beings, and the biases bleed through. Seek a variety of sources for information. Talk to people who have a good heart but see things differently than you do. You might not change your mind, but you’ll have a clearer understanding of why there are different ideas out there and why you believe what you do. There’s nothing worse than an individual who wants to cram their political views down everyone’s throat but refuses to listen to why there are other opinions out there.
  5. Respect
    What it really comes down to in my mind is respect. I have my opinions, but I respect that yours vary. You’re not stupid for seeing things differently than I do. In fact, there are probably things I can learn from you and your perspective, just as there are things you can learn from mine. At the end of the day, my vote is one tiny thing, but my relationships with friends and loved ones are a huge part of my life that will last longer than any politician’s time in office. I can’t change the world with my vote, I can only do my part. But I can change the world by treating others with respect and compassion. People first, politics second.

Repeat this with me: The fate of the country does not depend on me convincing everyone else to vote like me. My relationships with the people in my life are not worth losing over an election. I will seek out varied and reliable sources, both for information and to build up my compassion for those who differ from me. I will pray for God’s will to be done in our country as the election approaches, and pray for those in authority for their whole term. If my candidate loses, God is still on the throne, and He has a bigger and better plan than I do.

Famine in the Horn of Africa

Back in 2011, there was a famine in the Horn of Africa. The famine killed thousands and disrupted systems in ways that have not yet been fully overcome. And now the region is facing famine once again. A famine is an extreme, widespread scarcity of food. Famines are usually caused by wars or environmental conditions that prohibit the growth of grass and crops, resulting in the death of livestock and eventually people. The famine that Eastern Africa is facing right now is caused by a drought that is killing off the vegetation and plant life.

The Horn of Africa is a peninsular region on the far eastern side of the continent, and includes the nations of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. The famine right now is particularly bad in Somalia, a nation of 10.8 million people on the eastern edge of the Horn of Africa. In the north, Somalia is just over 20 miles from Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, so the culture is influenced by both East Africa and the Middle East. The environment is hot, and rainfall is normally irregular, though right now it’s pretty much nonexistent.

According to UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund), nearly 1.4 million children in Somalia are expected to be acutely malnourished this year. Obviously one can die from starvation, but malnourishment can also cause stunted growth, physical and mental impairment, and decreased immunities that leave children susceptible to life-threatening illnesses. Famine also causes people to leave their homes in an effort to find a better situation. This migration upsets education and tears families apart.

This situation is devastating and heartbreaking. Famine isn’t caused by laziness or bad choices, it’s just plain bad luck. And try as we might, we can’t bring back the rain. So while opportunities like education and access to capital are usually the best solution for poverty and hunger, in a situation like this people need an emergency handout to bridge the crisis period. Many of the world’s hunger relief organizations are on the case, arriving with food, water, and medical care to see people through this crisis. But the need is huge. UNICEF estimates 1.4 million children will be affected by acute malnutrition this year, but the adults who care for them will face the same challenges, so the actual number affected is probably double that.

There are three things that we can do from here to support Somalis during this crisis:

  1. Pray – Pray for rain to return to the Horn of Africa. Pray for those who are suffering. Pray for the missionaries and non-profits working to bring relief. Pray that donors and volunteers would step up the challenge.
  2. Give – Non-profit organizations have carefully fundraised budgets and planned programs to manage around the world. This crisis is an additional burden on their organizations. I’ve signed up to raise donations for Feed My Starving Children’s Somalia initiative this summer, and you can make a gift or learn more about that here.
  3. Volunteer – No, I’m not suggesting you fly to Somalia. In fact, I would discourage it. They don’t need more mouths to feed right now! But there are things we can do from here. Research organizations working in the country, and help them raise money. Use your social media following to raise awareness of the problem and the organizations working in the region. Some organizations even have ways that you can help hands-on. Here in the Twin Cities, FMSC is having a special packing weekend June 2-5 at the RiverCentre in St Paul to provide for this extra demand on their resources. I’ll be there packing on Sunday evening and Monday afternoon that week. If you’re in the area and would like to sign up to help, you can find that information here.

This draught and famine will eventually pass, but how many lives will be lost in the meantime? Do what you can, starting, and ending, with prayer!

If you know of other organizations working in the area, or other things that we can do to help, please leave a comment!

 

We the People

On Tuesday America held a very contentious election, and today we honor current and former military personnel with Veteran’s Day. As the election results have been rolling in, people around the country have been expressing both hope and fear in loud, angry ways. Social media is practically unbearable right now as some gloat while others mourn. But tucked among those posts, I came across these thoughts from my very wise and well-spoken friend, Laura. Laura is a Godly woman, a former member of the Army National Guard, and one of the smartest people I know. She is a natural writer, and has put together her thoughts on the election with such eloquence that I asked her to let me share them with all of you. Please remember that if you chose to leave a comment on this page, it must be civil. You may disagree with certain points if you like, but any rude bashing of individuals will be removed. Thank you.

 

Today’s verse of the day struck a chord with me and I hope it resonates also with some of you. 1 Peter 2:15-16 “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”

This election has polarized America, a country I love, a people I would gladly die to protect. There are a lot of problems with the way our government is run and many changes do need to happen. Whether right or wrong, THAT is the reason Donald Trump was elected. He was not elected based on his character (let’s face it, neither viable candidate would have been elected on character). He was not elected because Americans are filled with hatred for one another. On the contrary, the majority of Americans – even those who can’t see or don’t understand the plight of their fellow citizens – do not hate or fear their fellow Americans and residents.

My fellow Americans, we need to stop, take a step back, and breathe. Many of our fellow citizens and residents are scared of the future. They are afraid that the minority of hate-filled, bigoted Americans will send us 50 years (or more) back in time and they will lose the BASIC rights afforded to those who live here. Many are afraid that they will be unfairly and unjustly deported, many are afraid that their parents who aren’t here legally will be justly deported, still others believe they will again be judged by the color of their skin, their religion, or the lifestyle they live – and whether we agree with them or not, their fears are real. In some instances, their fears are justified. We have come a long way in America, and I would hate to see this country torn apart by hatred and fear.

I don’t know what the next four years holds. I don’t know if Trump is an answer to prayer, or a silver-tongued deceiver, but I do know that this is MY country. This is OUR country and “We the people” is more than just a line on a really old document. It cannot and will not fall apart unless we do. Is it possible for the next four years to be bleak, for it to take years after he leaves office to recover? Yes it is. But we’ve had bad leaders before who’ve made terrible mistakes – and we have recovered. Is it possible for us to be surprised by an unlikely leader who is both Republican and Democrat, who will actually try to work in the best interest of the country and its people? Yes it is. Is it possible for this to be just another four years of nothing amazingly good or bad – much like the last 2-3 years? Yes it is. Only time will tell what kind of leader he will evolve into, but “We the People” are what’s important here – regardless of what he or the government as a whole does.

So I call on my fellow believers, and fellow citizens who may not believe exactly as I do. Let’s silence the ignorant talk of foolish people, not by responding to hate with hate, but by doing good. Sometimes things get shaken up in our world to help us understand what is important. This country has lived through wars, through feast, through famine, through natural disaster, through politicians, and political movements because of its people. Because we are able to set aside our differences when it matters most and unite as brothers and sisters in one great American family.

So the next time you see someone voicing their fears, don’t attack their fears. You don’t know where they have been. Respond in love and let them know you are there for them and so are the majority of Americans. The next time you see someone acting out of hate, don’t react with more hate. Remind them how far we’ve come as a nation and that it doesn’t take hatred and violence to bring about the changes we need as a nation. Just like any family, it takes love, it takes respect, it takes compromise and understanding.