Tag Archives: family

Stir a Pot, Feed a Soul: Real Comfort Food

Chicken & Dumplings -- click on photo for recipe

When we hear someone say, “comfort food” thoughts drift to dinners from childhood imagining something warm, full of carbs, or sweetly satisfying. We dream of flavors and textures to feed our emotional funk or exhaustive schedule to quench and satisfy.  The focus is inward, self-gratifying.

What if our focus shifted outward instead?

This is not intended to make you feel guilty about surrounding yourself with good food or savoring a favorite meal, simply to think about comfort food differently.  Food not only soothes our moods and maladies, it brings comfort to those hurting, recovering, or overwhelmed. Of course, it fills a practical need, but so do restaurants and pizza delivery. Taking a meal to someone invests in community with a personal touch that goes far beyond the food itself.

When someone notices our need and offers to lift our burden for a moment we feel valued, encouraged, and less alone.

Our family has been the beneficiary of meals arriving at our door after a major car accident, sudden illness, and crisis.  The concern and kindness of friends, as well as others we didn’t even know, created emotional margin and physical relief when doctor appointments, decision-making, and grief consumed daily routine.  They were life-givers, every one, with encouraging words and reassurance they were there to do whatever they could … taking care of one of the basic needs like dinner or groceries was a vital part of the help we needed.

According to 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  When we serve others, it is a blessing no matter how big or small the gesture.  It doesn’t have to be a whole meal, if you bake amazing bread, make an extra loaf to give away.  I believe good food is one of the various forms of God’s grace we can use to meet someone’s need—real comfort food.

So what does that really look like?

You can start by responding to needs in your own sphere of influence at church, school, work, club, or neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be someone in crisis, it can be a single mom with a maxed schedule, a college student missing home, or a co-worker trying to finish a big project who would be grateful to know you care. Yes, it might feel weird to be the first one to do something like this, but caring for others is worth feeling a little awkward.

10 Tips for Stirring a Pot and Feeding a Soul:

1. Simple food is best. Make what you know and do well; this is not the time to try new recipes.  Check for allergies and strong dislikes. For food sensitivities and allergies, think outside the casserole. Casseroles are great comfort food for many, but are more apt to contain common food allergens like corn, wheat, milk, or soy.  Braised meats, steamed vegetables, soups, and salads easily accommodate those with food restrictions or strong dislikes of certain foods.

2. Use disposable containers.  Unless it is a neighbor or someone you see regularly, deliver meals in containers that do not need to be returned.  Keep it as simple as possible for those you are trying to bless.

3. Deliver the meal at dinnertime, if possible. If not, make it as close to ready with clear instructions. If delivering food to a family with a new baby, don’t ring the door bell.  Arrange a specific time and arrive with a gentle knock at the door in case the baby is sleeping.

4. Consider everyone in a family. Crisis, surgery, new babies, grief, affects everyone within a family. Try to include at least one thing everyone will like with the meal. If the family has small children, make sure you show up with ice cream or something specifically for them if you can.

5. Customize the meal for the event/purpose. Bereavement, nursing mothers, recovering from surgery or illness can each pose a different need.
New moms
, especially nursing moms, eat often so snacks and easy breakfast foods are great too.  Avoiding spicy, acidic food is helpful to prevent adverse reactions from the baby.
Surgery
is hard on the body, when someone undergoes general anesthesia the entire digestive system shuts down. Provide a gentle and nourishing meal like chicken soup made from homemade bone broth. Consider foods that are soft, nourishing, and easy to digest. If you know they like smoothies, provide a few pre-packaged frozen smoothies easily assembled at home.

6. Offer to coordinate the meals.  Major crisis, trauma, accidents can be overwhelming and having an infant with the phone constantly ringing is no picnic either.  Having one person collect primary information and receive questions regarding meals is truly helpful.  Organizing a handful of suppers for a friend is pretty straight forward, but when a larger group or longer-term need is part of the equation, there are services to help.

Care Calendar
Meal Baby
Food Tidings
Lotsa Helping Hands
Take Them A Meal

7. Providing a meal is not the time to impose your nutritional agenda on someone else or “teach” them how to eat.  Try to understand what would bring comfort to them, even well-meaning advice can be overwhelming when someone is stressed.

8. Include the recipe. This can be especially helpful for those with food sensitivities or allergies too—they can have a little more confidence when they can review the recipe.

9. Include a note of encouragement, which mentions what you brought. This is helpful when a number of meals are provided. It can be difficult to remember and sort out who brought what when writing thank you cards. (Yes, I know, you didn’t do it to be thanked.)

10. Even if you don’t cook or have time to prepare a meal, you can help. Offer to run errands, clean, babysit, carpool kids, or provide a gift card for take-out.

What is comfort food to you? 

Have you comforted others with food or received this kind of comfort food from someone?  If so, what was your experience?

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Cleaning the Kitchen and Ordering My World: Soul Food

Yesterday, my kitchen and dining room was an outward expression of an inward condition. A collection of displaced items, useful items like shoes, books, platters, bowls, foodstuff, mixed with things beyond their usefulness like empty boxes, trash, dead flowers from weekends past, and a grimy counter. None of it required urgent attention, but the mess noisily taunted.

Of course, I could have retreated to my computer to assuage the echo in my head of all the undone to-do list items, like, oh yeah, WRITE A BLOG POST, dovetailing nicely with the burgeoning angst of what will this ever amount to? The restlessness has been palpable, a host of ideas without clear plans to implement, seemingly stalled in the fast lane of life. Clean, write, plan, develop recipes and projects, exercise, read, learn new technology, laundry, dinner (just to eat), and the demands of family all weigh in at the same time. With all these things thrown together without a plan, tackling life is more akin to Whack-a-Mole game than savored living, hence the restlessness.

However, just the day before, the greater need with the quieter voice brought this plea to the forefront, “God, order my world.”  I decided I should cooperate with my own prayer; starting the day quietly with my bible, I then began to return each item in the cluttered chaos to its rightful place. No inspired music to move me along, just whispered conversation with the lover of my soul, wooing me to loosen my grip just a little from the cares I held.  It did not happen all at once, there were plenty of interruptions–this life I lead is real–but I did not miss the lesson.

In the still, UN-busy and quieted place, yielded before God, I gained the intangible peace and confidence for all else before me. It is not an escape, but a solace–a soul-centering constant–momentary, yet lasting. Whether by drip or deluge, this renews me time and again when my self-imposed, imbalanced struggle for _____ has tipped the scales once more.

It is a simple petition, “God, order my world.” He knows the details of the request. He has watched the fruitless flailing and held-back tears. Waiting, wondering when it will be enough, what will it take for me to relent and yield. It is all right there–peace, revelation, strength, provision, guidance, wisdom–ready for my cooperation with the divine.  He has shown me in this stillness is the exchange of restlessness for repose.

As you might guess, when the counter was free of crumb and crust, the last item secured, creativity returned as I imagined what I might cook next. It was okay no post was written and I still do not know what all this will amount to … with my world in order, both external and internal, I am refreshed and renewed for whatever lies ahead.

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Foods That Look Like Body Parts They’re Good For [via: Woman’s Day]: Feature Fridays

Foods That Look Like Body Parts They’re Good For was published last year by Woman’s Day, but somehow I missed it. If we were still home schooling, this would be a great topic for health or science class—Ah, those were the days. Pretty cool imagery and one more way to think about the foods we eat. Enjoy!

Farmers Markets [Revisted]: The Bounty of Summer

Sometimes a previous post is worth resurrecting, revisiting something wonderful—Farmers Markets certainly qualify.  I hope it is a refreshing reminder of summer’s offering.

It is the height of the season for Farmers Markets in the Rocky Mountain region with various locations every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday in Colorado Springs.  My personal favorite is at 24th & West Colorado Ave, in Old Colorado City on Saturday mornings.  Matt and I browse vine-ripened produce, local honey, salsa, and fresh-baked bread by La Baguette, while we take in the aroma of roasted chilies or hot kettle corn wafting in the air.  Colorado lamb always gets our attention with summer grilling in the forefront of our minds. That is, of course, until I spot the blooms of Perennial Favorites—reminded that my flowerbeds could use some work.

July will be sweet with Rocky Ford cantaloupe, watermelon, and peaches & cream corn that will accompany picnics and holiday parties. Produce, flowers, bread, honey, meat, cheese, herbs, roasted chilies—it is worthy of the crowd on a Saturday morning, or any other day of the week that you can find food fresh, ripe, and flavorful. This is one of those times to ignore the advice to not shop when hungry, several of the vendors offer samples.

Just like reading labels in the grocery store, it is just as important to inquire about the origin of the produce when shopping at a Farmer’s Market.  Not all vendors raise what they sell, so if you’re not careful, you can end up with Florida sweet corn or California tomatoes.  For some customers, the convenience of a larger variety saves a trip elsewhere, so the mix is good.  Overall, the summer markets are rich with local, Colorado produce and meat, providing superior nutrition at your table.

One of the advantages of visiting the same Farmer’s Market is getting to know the people growing your food.  Early August will be the peak of the season for delicious tree-ripened peaches from Tate Orchards in Palisade.  I especially appreciate their efforts to provide peaches without the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides. This is truly a special time of year to see the growers face to face and reward their hard work with our patronage.

In addition to food products, some markets highlight art, handmade crafts, and music.  These prove to be more interesting for the kids when their patience with veggies runs out.  Organic and conventional farmers, artists, musicians, and family businesses sit under adjacent awnings lining streets and parking lots throughout the city.  Our community is blessed to have them if only for a short season. It is summertime goodness at its finest.

Mother’s Day Soul Food: Feature Fridays

Featuring a few videos today in honor of Mother’s Day.  Pour a cup of coffee or grab some popcorn (you might want to have some tissues nearby too) and relax with these tributes to motherhood.  Encourage other moms too—pass along a little laughter, inspiration, empathy, encouragement—there is something here for everyone. Enjoy!

Happy Mother’s Day!  

Painted eggs / Oua vopsite (via Droopi’s everything but the kitchen sink): Feature Fridays

While browsing Friday Potluck this morning, these beautiful eggs caught my attention. I thought they looked like stained glass, reminded of a time when our kids gathered around cups of jewel-colored water or joined friends to make Ukrainian Easter eggs.  I can still see their faces, wide-eyed and ready to witness the transformation from egg to art.  This post by Droopi’s everything but the kitchen sink is not only unique and  beautiful, it is also bilingual—Enjoy!

Easter is coming and because on Black Thursday we always paint the eggs, today I made special time for this.  I guess everybody knows how to paint plain simple eggs (just follow the instructions) but in our family there is a tradition (well, it’s more of an aesthetic thing) to paint the eggs in onion leaves. The procedure is not hard at all, but it requires a little bit of patience. I’ll explain it, step by step how it’s done.Read More

I wasn’t sure about the safety of eating the eggs when using this technique, so I found a few natural and equally beautiful egg coloring techniques.

Dyeing Easter Eggs with Onion Skins

Recipe: Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs

Recipe: Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs

Dye Easter Eggs Naturally – A DIY Tutorial

Dye Easter Eggs Naturally – A DIY Tutorial

Have a wonderful Easter — He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Yes, That’s It

I cook a lot and from time to time, I enjoy a break from it as much as anyone does.  Saturday mornings are my favorite.  Each morning during the week there is breakfast to make, kids to send out the door, and the business of managing the household before I can sit down to write.  However, on Saturdays, the kids sleep-in, there is rarely a set schedule, and my sweet husband makes me breakfast. Ah, I love that! One meal I do not have to put any thought into.

I walk out of the office to scrambled eggs with green chilies sprinkled with cheddar or Parmesan, sausage, or bacon, sitting along side honeyed or fruit-topped toast.  Of course, the added bonus is that along with breakfast comes a fresh cup of French press coffee—I even close my eyes to savor that first sip.  Playing in the background is Indigo Girls Radio and the table is set with favorite condiments like salsa, horseradish, or more cheese. I am ravenous by this time because we eat earlier during the week when the schedule runs the day, so I make all kinds of appreciative sounds as I dig in.

This morning, he said, “So is this what it feels like?”
“What’s that?” I said.
“When you make something for someone and they really enjoy it—it feels good.”
“Yes, that’s it.”