Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dirty Bottoms

A good friend of ours just got back from her recent trip to Ethiopia to meet her beautiful new son. While there, they visited the orphanage that he had been living in for at least 2 of his sweet 3 years.

She told me it was the worst place she had ever been. Many of the infants had recently been dropped off and still had attached umbilical cord stumps. They all were so filthy with soaking/dirty diapers that the families visiting couldn't even pick them up they were so dirty. The bottles were propped for each baby and with no burping, the tiny infants would throw up all over themselves and would lay there, not being cleaned up. The orphanage told her that they get one new child A DAY.

I am hoping our Olivia would no longer be one of those babies - but my heart still hurts for them. Olivia should already have been moved into our transition home and is being well fed, held, hugged, and cleaned. So to those that say that 'it's all about the money' - yes - we are paying alot of money to our agency in Ethiopia - but it is for the months that my child will be taken care of..... versus the alternative - her staying in an orphanage.

When I told Tony about the orphanage he clammed up until he said, "When we go on our trip - I'm not going to any orphanages. I can't take seeing that." To which I said in a completely not-so-submissive fashion, "Oh we WILL go. We have to. We have to be Jesus to those children, to hold and love them if only for a brief time." Besides that, that is the very purpose of praying and begging God to provide for the kids to go - so that they can visit and play with the older kids in the orphanages and have a love for missions and orphans birthed in them. Or will it be further birthed in us. Time will tell.

And then I got to thinking ----- how much are we just like those precious babies? Covered in our own stench and filth?? Every little white lie, every lustful glance, every gossiped word -- just more and more throw up we are covering ourselves with.

And yet ---- Christ still came to us. When he was a Prince - he left Perfection to come to where we live. To pick us up, getting himself covered in our stinking sin. And then to clean us up, make us new - and adopt us as his own. To take us home with him so that yes, when we mess ourselves again, and we will - or throw up sin all down our shirt - Jesus will wipe us clean once more. Cause that's what loving fathers do. I thank God I am adopted, and I thank God for the picture he has made so clear for us in this process to adopt one of his little ones.

The difference is that Christ comes to us and adopts us - all we had to do was call out to him and ask to be his child. These children don't have the option of asking to have a father. That's where the church needs to step up and follow the command of Christ to look after them. And that's where the church is falling down on the job. Although it is encouraging to see some churches in America now waking up to the orphan crisis.

Months back we had reports from one of our visiting families about the conditions of the babies in one of the orphanages they visited. Babies sleeping on wooden planks in cribs, wet and cold. No diapers. Extreme diaper rash.

A sweet friend of mine started collecting cloth diapers and forming crews to make waterproof diaper covers to send. She then formed teams to take them over to the orphanages in Ethiopia, and now also, Uganda. Did I happen to also mention that this young mom shares the same DTE date as us for a baby girl, has a little boy already, AND had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor??? I don't want to hear anyone else say they don't have the time or the resources, or even the emotional capacity to adopt or help orphans - and that goes for myself as well!!!

We formed our own sewing team with 3 ladies showing up at church with me one Saturday morning to cut, pin, and sew more sweet diaper covers. Thank you ladies!!! (especially kind Debra who took fragments home to finish for me!)
My sweet cousin Jaime then asked her church in Virginia to help contribute and look how many they donated - to help me, who they had never met, and the babies in the Ethiopian orphanages that pulled at their hearts. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus church!!! And thank you Jaime for spear-heading and planning the event!

From reports, we heard later that through so many families from AWAA pulling together and sending donations, the babies at Kids Care Orphanage were doing much better. So all the above donations will go with me when I travel to another orphanage in need - as there are SO many in need. I'm guessing we wont have to go far to find some dirty bottoms in need of a little bit of love from Christ.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In the Kitchen - Pizza Marguerite

Since my last recipe post got more hits than most in the last oh, 2 years --- I am again veering off the adoption track into recipe land --- since at the moment - eating and cooking is far more fun than sitting and waiting for the phone to ring anyway!

Today's recipe is my go-to-when-we-are-starving-and-don't-want-a-can-of-instant-soup night. My kids still wont eat it but my meat&potatoes man loves it. For the kids, the pack of pizza crust comes with two - so I just make one a tomato sauce/ cheese regular:

It's a pretty basic pizza recipe but since I have had numerous friends and family email me multiple times asking for the recipe - here goes:

I didn't take a prep photo because it's about as basic as you can get:

1 prepared thin crust pizza - I love Mama Mary's Thin and Crispy. (You can find it near the pizza sauce/spaghetti sauce in Wal-Mart.)
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella
1-2 chopped garlic
Fresh basil - fresh is a MUST
olive oil
shredded Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & pepper

1) Start by brushing (or finger tip brushing) olive oil across the pizza.
2) Top with mozzarella cheese to cover all the way to edges. Don't skimp on the cheese, you're not using any meat - so that is how I get away from feeling calorie guilty.
3) Top with sliced Roma tomatoes and garlic

In my last recipe I had someone ask for clarification on the fresh garlic chopping. And again, I say - use FRESH ingredients and you will be SO much happier.

Start with a large knife. You'll have to get over your fear someday and let me just say - once you start using a large knife, cutting prep is far more fun and you get a little bit of that Rachel Ray feeling like you actually know how to cook and make millions of dollars at the same time. And I am a clumsy, messy cook and I haven't cut a fingertip off yet. Promise.

Place the garlic clove under the side of the knife and press or hit with your palm to crush the garlic. The skin will then fall away and you will have the peeled garlic perfect and clean without getting it under your fingernails.

Use the knife to rock back and forth over the peeled garlic. This is by far the best way to chop something. Just place the tip of the knife on the cutting board and rock the knife back and forth over it until it is in tiny pieces. You may have to wipe the knife off and then cut it some more as it likes to stick to the sides, but you get the idea.

Do the same with the fresh basil. Roll about 3-4 leaves into a basil 'cigar' and then rock the knife over to cut into small ribbons.
4) Sprinkle the garlic, fresh basil, kosher salt, and pepper over the entire pizza. Top each tomato with shredded Parmesan (although you can leave off if you don't have any) While I'm at this step --- please - throw away that shaker of Parmesan you have in your fridge. Go ahead and admit it, it doesn't have any taste anyway. Buy a bag of shredded instead for your spaghetti and recipes. I always have a bag on hand in my chiller, it lasts forever.

Sometimes I drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the tomatoes as well, sometimes I don't, just to leave the extra calories off. It's all good either way.
**Take note of how dark my pizza stone is - it is slick as can be from about 1,459,352 chocolate chip cookies, 2,346 potstickers, and at least 368 pizzas baked - with no bottoms burned to date.
5) Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes. Just until the cheese is meltey and gorgeous.

Ta-Da. Pizza Marguerite. That my family requests when they come and visit and my husband says even beats out the one at Carabbas. And that's high praise my friends, high praise indeed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

In the Kitchen - Baked Potstickers

So in case you haven't noticed - I started a little page to the right where I can store my favorite recipes. I LOVE to cook and try new things. And then I LOVE to hold food in front of my husband or kids demanding "taste it! no really, taste it!!!!!"

Maybe that's why I specialized in feeding therapy with the babies so I can do the same to them vs. torture my husband. At least I did go through training to find out how to hold a spoon in front of a toddler's mouth for 45 minutes while they scream and refuse to eat. Fun, fun. As an added, 'about me' fact, in my hospital internship, I gagged stroke victims with 9 inch frozen Q-tips dipped in the most sour substance available (to increase swallowing muscles). How many of you still think being a speech therapist is a boring job now?!?

So on to my first official recipe post - yeaaaah!!! This one is actually a modified Pampered*Chef recipe that the fam and I have fallen in love with. It takes a little time (maybe 20 min prep) but is fun for the kids to help out with.

Baked Potstickers w/ Red Jalapeno Dipping Sauce

Potsticker Ingredients:

  • 1 can (10 oz) chunk white chicken; drained
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 1 tsp peeled and finely grated ginger root
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp onion flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • pack of Wonton Wrappers - found in produce section
Let me add here: if you have never used fresh garlic and/or ginger - DO. It is very cheap - the above little chunk of ginger cost 12 cents. And the taste is just so much more amazing than the powdered or even canned versions.

Just in case you have never used ginger (which I hadn't until this recipe). You first peel the skin back on a bit, leaving a 'handle' for you to hold onto while you grate on a fine section of the grater. Watch out not to grate your fingertips. That hurts.... big time.As far as fresh garlic goes - either use a garlic press so you don't have to peel the outside skin off - which I did for this recipe. Or you can smash the garlic clove with the broad side of a knife, peel away the outside peel, and chop really, really fine. Which is how I use garlic in most recipes. (and for those pro chefs out there -- sorry for the elementary cooking lesson but I have some younger readers I know would be emailing me to ask how to do it!) Fresh garlic makes the biggest difference in ALL my recipes.

2. Once you get the mix together. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

3. Time for the fun - filling the Wonton Wrappers. Keep a bowl of water nearby to wet your fingertips, and dampen separated Wonton Wrappers so they will close easily. Spoon a tsp (or little less) of the mix into the center of each.

You then can choose to fold your potstickers into any design you would like. The three I like to make are a tootsie roll, an envelope, and one where I bring up each corner and pinch the diagonal sides together to form a kind of flower. The kids love making these. Just make sure your edges seal or the mix will seep out while baking. Arrange on clay baking sheet. You don't have to have room between as they wont expand.

** let me also say I am an addict for clay baking products. I have a large sheet pan, a brownie pan, a lasagna pan, a casserole dish, a mini pan, and a muffin pan. Have I said I love the clay baking products!?! The bottoms don't burn and cookies come out puuuuurfect as the clay lets heat go all the way through the food and cook evenly. That and clean-up is so easy - you just let cool, rinse with water, and scrape the food right off without having to soak and scrub. I have tried my potstickers on a regular baking sheet when I was making 2 batches at the same time and the baked-on-clay ones were much better - just watch out for bottom burning on a regular sheet.
**Notice how the pan to the right is twice as dark? It's because I have used it twice as long and it is now naturally twice as slick. It's called 'seasoning' and the older/darker a pan is - the better it is to cook on.

4. Bake until the edges start to crisp a little and potstickers are golden brown. Around 12-14 minutes.

Dipping Sauce Ingredients:

To make the dipping sauce, which is fantastic, you will need:
  • 1/2 cup red jalapeno jelly
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce
Microwave 30-40 seconds at a time, stirring to melt jelly. Whisk or stir until well blended.

** this makes a decent amount. The kids like to dip their potstickers into plain soy sauce so Tony and I always have left over sauce. I use to halve the recipe but then found it refrigerated well so I now make it and store it in an oil salad dressing or glass bottle. This sauce is SO good on rice - don't let the jalapeno jelly throw you off - it is really a great mix. Spicy but sweet.

Serve with white rice and sauce. And I promise you, you wont have leftovers. Which is good because the wontons don't warm well the second go round.

** for anyone on Weight Watchers - I ran the points based on my modified recipe and it was 8 pts for 5 potstickers.

If you try it - let me know what you think! I've had great reviews as I have taken these to many different functions and they have always been a hit.