From Saturday morning cooking shows, I learned to make a perfectly-browned pan seared chicken breast, zucchini noodles and spaghetti squash, and the correct balance of butter and flour for a roux (the base for many soups and sauces.) But for many years I refused to try to make risotto.

Risotto is too sophisticated for my skill level, I thought. Risotto is only made by cooking school students and those TV chefs. I am satisfied with boiling rice and adding butter and salt.

But like many new experiences, once I tried making risotto, I discovered the result was easier and better than I ever expected.

Risotto is surprisingly easy to create, uses few ingredients, and can be adapted to many different tastes. Saying “I made risotto” makes me feel more sophisticated and accomplished than saying “I boiled rice,” and the basic technique makes a versatile, delicious dish.

Start with Arborio rice and olive oil. Drizzle some oil in the pan. Add 1 ½ cups of rice and stir it around over medium heat until the rice just begins to turn golden.

Pour in half a cup of chicken stock. Stir until the rice has soaked up the stock and starts to look dry. Add another half cup of stock and stir.

Keep repeating that process: pour, stir, pour, stir. . . until you’ve gradually added about 4 cups (32 ounces) of chicken stock.

Taste the rice. It should be soft and tender.

Then add 2 Tablespoons of butter and a cup of grated parmesan cheese.

The basic recipe is simple and smooth, creamy comfort food. Once you’ve mastered the process, any combination of ingredients and flavors can be added. My favorite is cooked and crumbled bacon with thawed frozen corn.

You could try fresh peas and parsley, or mushrooms and asparagus, or any other combination you can imagine.

Check here, here, and here for risotto recipes and preparation ideas.

And though I am eager to explore new flavor ideas and try new risotto recipes, I can still appreciate the simple comfort in a bowl of basic boiled rice.

What do you enjoy preparing in your kitchen? What have you always wanted to try?

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As I am busily preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family, please enjoy this post from my previous blog, lizology101.

Have a very Happy Christmas!

I spotted this little leftover snowman after last season's Christmas shopping frenzy. When I showed my daughter the picture, she said, "Notice he's still smiling!"

If a dented clearance-sale snowman can keep his smile, we all have many reasons to put on a happy face.

"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Smile when you are bent, bruised and damaged; because you know you are still valuable to God.

Smile when you feel alone, abandoned and rejected; because you know you still have God's company.

Smile when you are unsure, afraid and uncertain; because you know God still has a plan for you.

Keep your smile because you are keeping your faith, and know God smiles on you!

Be happily blessed today!

 

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img_0519Someone new has come to live in my house. This resident hides under the beds and jumps out to bite my feet when I walk by. She has chewed holes in the living room carpet and shredded the kitchen rugs. She ripped a Hillary Clinton doll to pieces within minutes.

I think it is my job to teach her about good behavior -- how to sit quietly and remember that socks are not snacks; but the truth is, her only job is to teach me a few things.

So far I have learned:

img_0732Blessings often arrive disguised as messes. When I dumped a quart container of buttermilk on the kitchen counter and floor, she didn't complain about the milk dripping onto her head and running into her eyes. She enjoyed the unexpected windfall fate had delivered and quickly took advantage of the situation. I could be more aware and appreciate the unanticipated gifts that often fall into my path.

Opportunities often appear disguised as obstacles. The first time she tried to leap onto the sofa cushions, she bounced off and hit the coffee table. After repeated attempts to scale the couch summit, she scrambled to the top and was rewarded with a soft, comfortable resting spot and a better vantage point for viewing the room. I need to remember that success may be preceded by several falls; but if we keep returning and trying, eventually we jump high enough to reach our goals.

img_0589Learning usually looks like playing. Every morning walk is an exuberant chase after falling leaves and a noisy crashing through the crunching drifts. She enjoys exploring this colorful, loud, and aromatic world. I am realizing it is alright to slow down, notice the changing seasons, and enjoy the glow of the early rising sun. I am recognizing that I need to make more time to have fun, enjoy new experiences, and see wonder in the world; because life is short, and children (and puppies) grow up fast.

What are you learning from the residents in your home? What lessons have they shared with you?

 

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  1. Select an age-appropriate book.
  2. Curl up together on the couch, bed, or another comfy spot.
  3. Open the book and read.

I will be honest and admit that I don't remember reading to my daughter much when she was small. I was busy. I worked all day, and I came home tired. By bedtime, I just wanted to be quiet and go to sleep; so if I read a book at all, it was one quick bedtime story and then lights-out and good-night.

But as I pursued my degree in Elementary Education, I learned there are many good reasons to spend time reading books to our children. If I had those years to do over, I would make more time to read to my daughter, and I would make more effort to enjoy and appreciate reading to her when she was young.baby-316214_1280

Why we should read to children:

  1. Children learn language by hearing language. Small children who are read to develop greater vocabularies, learn to read more easily, and generally do better in school. Children who are read to develop an appreciation for reading and are more likely to enjoy reading later in life. Children learn how books and words work by turning pages and following text. They learn to process ideas, explore, ask questions, and find the answers to their questions by thinking about the words they hear.
  2. Children learn about relationships by spending time with adults. Reading together can be a special, cozy time of sitting close and being the center of another's attention. Spending time with adults makes children feel safe and secure and helps maintain those close relationships for the future. Reading together is a time to appreciate being a family and being present with each other. It is time to have fun, laugh, talk, ask questions and share ideas.
  3. Children learn about the world through books. Television channels and computer screens don't teach children to think critically, form opinions, ask questions, or consider possibilities. Reading encourages children to use their own imaginations and question information. Children learn how to talk with adults through active conversations, and they learn about the world from adults who share their experiences.

Moms can make a few preparations to help make reading together part of the regular routine.

Build a library. Children's books are inexpensive at thrift stores, yard sales, and library book sales. Buy as many as your house will hold.

Use the public library for greater variety. Help children get their own library cards and select their own books from the children's section.

Don't stop when they're too big to sit on your lap. Older children can enjoy reading chapter books with their parents, too. Continue spending reading time together and talk about the stories you read.

img_0705When I ask my daughter now, she remembers reading Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In this classic, Max learns that exploring the world alone is not much fun, and he is happy to be home where he is loved and dinner is waiting on the table.

 

I have also learned to appreciate the home and love that are waiting for me at the end of a busy day.

Other favorite books include:img_0707

 

 

 

 

 

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How do you enjoy reading with your children? What are your favorite books to read together?

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While I'm enjoying a week away with other YoungLives campers, enjoy this repost from my previous blog lizology101.

We waited for an hour, standing barefoot on hot sand, sunscreened against the July glare. When our turn finally came, we stepped into heavy wet harnesses, tightened the waist straps, loosened the thighs.

Then we walked to the other side of the lake, barefoot over grass and gravel, carrying the double-webbed straps with heavy cable clips slung over our shoulders. When we reached the zipline tower, we climbed uncountable steps, up and up and up -- to the top, where we were greeted by a teenaged kid wearing a harness clipped into a spider web of safety lines.

He clipped our harnesses into the web, and again we waited, eye-level with the tree tops. The tower swayed gently in the breeze, just enough to be slightly nauseating. Then came the awareness that we really planned to jump off from here.

"Stand on the box," the kid told us.

We stepped to the edge of the wooden platform, toes hanging off into air. The kid attached our clips to the zipline. He unhooked our safety straps from the web. We stood unsteadily on the edge.

"I can't do it!" my companion called.

"There's nowhere to go but down!" I answered.

I counted, "One, two, three, jump!" but neither of us moved.

I leaned back against the line to put tension in the harness, counted to three again, and lifted my feet.

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? . . . If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand shall lead me, And your right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:7,9-10).

God always knows where we are, and he is always with us. Nowhere we go can escape the reach of his protection and love.

Sometimes we wait, wondering, for days or months or years for God's call to jump. Sometimes the call comes as a gentle nudge, sometimes a hard shove. At some time God calls each of us to take a big step. Then we have to trust in him and ride the line wherever it goes.

The zipline was a few screaming seconds before splashdown in the cold lake. Kicking, splashing, spitting water, I looked around for my companion.

I heard her beside me laughing, "Let's do it again!"

I pray you have faith to jump eagerly and often. What step is God calling you to take today?

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Someone I love very much has accused me of saying "Whatever" too much. 

"You wouldn't use that in your writing," he said.

Actually, I thought. Maybe I will. 

Whatever emotions you are feeling today are important. Emotions are the barometers of our souls. Listen to your feelings, respect their message, and honor the truths they tell.

Whatever lessons you are learning today are necessary. Failures are only course corrections to redirect our journeys. Decide to learn from what goes wrong and choose a way to make it right.

Whatever gifts you receive today are worth opening. Blessings often arrive in disguised packages. Appreciate and give thanks for every experience that comes your way.

Whatever you seek is available.

Whatever God shows you has meaning.

Whatever place he leads you has purpose.

Whatever challenge you face will help you move forward.

Today may you find whatever it is you ask and seek. Know that whatever your prayer, God hears every word.

IMG_0253And to my Loved One: Remember you are loved, whatever you say.

 

What is God saying to you today? Where is he calling and leading you?

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