Carolyn’s Pumpkin Harvest Pilaf

“Finally pumpkin season” ….. words spoken by my sister every Autumn as she anxiously awaits indulging in pumpkin desserts, pumpkin coffee drinks, pumpkin anything. My sister LOVES pumpkin!! So this year I decided to create a recipe in her honor. Something healthy, hearty and out of this world …..

As I was making this recipe, I had the windows open and felt the Fall breeze in my kitchen. I watched the colorful leaves gently falling to the ground. I heard the neighbors outside saying, “oh, someone is cooking something delicious” …… They were standing right by MY window, so I guess that someone was me ūüėČ

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!!

Carolyn's Pumpkin Harvest Pilaf

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 Hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

pkin4

Ingredients:

  • One Sugar-pie pumpkin
  • 1 cup wild rice blend
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth (for vegetarian, use veggie broth)
  • 1/3 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend

Pumpkin Spice Blend:

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Blend all ingredients and set aside

Cook rice and broth per package instructions. Set aside.

Poke a few holes in the top of your pumpkin. Microwave for three minutes to soften the shell. Let cool for one minute then use a sharp knife to cut the pumpkin in half side-to-side. Scoop out the pulp and seeds from the center.

Take the top half, using a potato peeler, peel off the outer shell of the pumpkin. Chop into small square pieces.

Clean out as much of the pumpkin squash from the bottom half, being careful not to break the shell (this way you can use it as a bowl).. Put the pulp aside for later use in a smoothie or bowl of soup.

Turn oven on .. 425 degrees.

Coat the squared pumpkin pieces with one tablespoon melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove pumpkin from oven and stir. Add the walnuts next to the pumpkin and place back into the oven for 4 more minutes.

Add to a large bowl: cooked rice, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 teaspoons pumpkin spice, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds. Toss gently.

Add toasted pumpkin and walnuts to the rice mixture and toss one more time. Serve


Step By Step:

Poke a few holes in the top of your pumpkin. Microwave for three minutes to soften the shell.

Let cool for one minute then use a sharp knife to cut the pumpkin in half (make the bottom half a little bigger so it can be used as a bowl later). Scoop out the pulp and seeds from the center.

pumpkin2  pumpkin1

Take the top half, using a potato peeler, peel off the outer shell of the pumpkin. This is fairly easy since the microwave softened the skin.

pumpkin3

pumpkin4

Chop into small square pieces.

pumpkin5

Clean out as much of the pumpkin from the bottom half, being careful not to break the shell (this way you can use it as a bowl).. Put the pulp aside for later use in a smoothie or bowl of soup.

pumpkin7

Turn oven onto 425 degrees.

Coat the squared pumpkin with one tablespoon melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Put onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes.

pumpkin8

Remove pumpkin from oven and stir. Add the walnuts next to the pumpkin and place back into the oven for 4 more minutes.

Add to a large bowl: cooked rice, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 teaspoons pumpkin seasoning, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds. Toss gently.

pkin5

Add toasted pumpkin and walnuts to the rice mixture. Serve

*somehow, I was so enthralled in creating this recipe, mouth watering and tummy growling ……… I missed a few photos. SO, we jump from raw pumpkin squares to the final product!!

pkin1

Ta-daaaaaaaaaaaaah

Here’s to all you pumpkin-lovers out there. May you fill your kitchen with the delicious aroma of Pumpkin pie spices and cranberries. May your neighbors wish they were having dinner with you ….

Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by everyone.

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

During a recent church sermon I heard a story about a painting contest promoted by a man who sought the perfect picture of Peace. The artists were told to paint whatever they felt would portray “Peace”. Some artists painted serene landscapes with sunsets and fields of beautiful flowers. Another painted a still quiet lake with a reflection clear as glass.

Each was amazing and beautiful, but when the winner was unveiled, everyone gasped in disbelief. The title of the winning painting was “Peace in the Midst of the Storm”.

peace in the storm

Painting credit Jack E. Dawson

At first glance, the painting looks anything but peaceful. Black clouds and lightning cover the sky. Waves crash down a jagged rocky hillside with raging waters below. How could this be peaceful?

Now take a closer look at the photo. Just beneath the water falls (and just above the river of water) you will notice a bird with her nest of babies tucked underneath the edge of a rock. In the midst of a giant storm, this bird found a sanctuary, a safe place to rest her wings.

A true portrayal of peace.

Can you imagine the bird trying to fly through that storm, crashing into waves, being blown out of control.  Ridiculous right?

Our lives, as we scramble through our days, can be compared to the bird trying to fly through that storm. We fight through traffic. We struggle to get all our tasks done. We become totally stressed over all the “little stuff” that never goes our way.

Now look at the painting again. Just as the bird found refuge under a rock, so can we find refuge in Christ.

Imagine all the troubles in your life being shielded by a rock, feeling just as peaceful as the bird in the painting. Did you know the bible says that the Lord is OUR rock?

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, my horn of salvation, and my high tower.

How amazing!!!!

That means He will shield us and protect us from all the troubles in our life. When we put our faith and trust in the Lord most high, He will guide our steps (Psalm 37:23), heal our wounds (Jeremiah 30:17), and carry our burdens (Psalm 55:22). He will protect us from the storms of life (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Even if you feel like you are being beaten down by the storm right now, do not lose faith. The bible says (Romans 8:28) that God will work everything out for the good, according to His plan.

What types of storms are you surrounded with today? The storm of finances, health difficulties, relationship troubles, insecurities?

Heavenly Father above, I pray that whomever is reading this today will find refuge in your love, in your Holy power, in your strength and wisdom. No matter what the struggle or storm Lord, I pray that you send your healing hand down from heaven and  create a shield (like that cliff protecting the bird). Touch the heart and mind of everyone involved and create a path to peace. Thank you Lord Jesus, In your name we pray. Amen.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33¬†“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 This story comes from the book A Wardrobe From the King written by Berit Kjos.  (pp. 45-46).

Credit for the painting goes to Jack E. Dawson. Check out his website and other works of art HERE.

 

To Be A Witness For Christ Or Not

“To be a witness for Christ or not” is a question that many of us Christians ponder. We’re placed in situations where we see someone struggling and we just “know that we know” Jesus is the answer, yet something holds us back from speaking God into someone’s life.

We don’t want to feel judged for talking about God to someone who might not believe. We worry that someone will be confrontational and we’ll end up in a debate situation defending our faith. We don’t have time. ¬†These are just some of the reasons I’ve played in my mind.

This happened to me yesterday as I was getting my teeth cleaned. The hygienist began telling me of her life challenges. Her mother had fallen and broke her neck leaving her with irreparable brain damage. She fell in love with a man that had severe mental issues and was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. She went on to tell me how she loved her lost boyfriend but also hated him, how she missed him but couldn’t stand certain aspects of him.

I began thinking about my life and how I had experienced similar difficulties, yet made it through all of them with the power of prayer. Then I felt a tug on my heart from God, telling me to minister to her and tell my story.

Have you ever felt that nudge to be a witness for God, ¬†but then felt awkward because the timing or situation didn’t seem right? ….. That was me!!! …. I had JUST met this gal, had no idea if she was a Christian, AND she had sharp metal tools in my mouth!!

Despite my reservations, I kept getting that nudge from God and I wanted to be faithful.

I began to tell my hygienist how God has a plan for each of us.   I acknowledged her sorrow and explained that God would introduce her to a wonderful man, in His timing.

Then I shared about my period of loneliness and how I finally met my husband. It wasn’t through a friend, a chance meeting in the grocery store, or by “trying” to find one.¬†It was through a specific ¬†prayer, long waiting, and trusting that God was orchestrating a perfect plan.

For TWO long years I prayed this prayer:

“Heavenly Father, you know my heart and you know I am lonely. I know I’m not ready for a healthy relationship right now, but God I am asking you to help me BE ready. Prepare my mind and heart. And prepare the mind and heart of the man you have waiting for me. God I trust Your will in my life and if I have to be lonely for a longer period, I will wait because I know your plan is perfect………….”

Long story short, my prayer was finally answered and God brought me a man that was exactly what I prayed for. It didn’t happen over night though. I prayed and waited. I cried. Sometimes I felt hopeless. But the more I leaned on God for the things I needed (companionship, guidance, wisdom), the more healthy I became. I learned patience. I learned to trust in God’s almighty plan. ¬†And I learned to love myself.

I was telling her this story because I wanted her to know that God¬†would bring just the right man into her life when she was ‚Äúready‚ÄĚ ……. and that maybe her plans didn’t work out because God had a better, more divine plan for her life. I suggested she pray¬†for guidance, for truth and understanding, and then trust God to do the rest.

My decision to minister to her was confirmed as the right decision when she looked at me and said,¬†“you know, that is exactly what my mom told me before her brain injury”. She told me that her mother could no longer carry on conversations like that with her and my words (from God) were just what she needed to hear. With a tear in her eye, she thanked me and then gave me a hug.

To be a witness for Christ or not?  Absolutely!!

God will put us in situations to minister to people, to be the answer to someone’s prayer, to speak words of love/faith/compassion to someone hurting. All we need to do is have a willing heart to be God’s vessel.

We need to press beyond those thoughts ¬†telling us the timing isn’t right or those fears telling us we will be judged.¬†People are hurting and we may be the only person in someone’s life to speak Godly wisdom.

(I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed, to be a witness for Christ because I was afraid of what someone might think?)

Psalm 96:3 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Please comment below how you’ve been able to witness to the people around you (I would LOVE to hear your stories!)

Vegan Potato Leek Soup

Recently, I shared with my readers that I adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s been about three weeks and I’ve had so much fun in the kitchen. I’ve had Tofu Piccata (while my hubby had Chicken Piccata), Cauli-fredo sauce with GF noodles, Sprouted Veggie Bean Burgers and so much more.

A few days ago, my husband made some saut√©ed scallops with leeks. He had a cup of leeks left over (which he was going to toss in the trash). Well, you know me ….. I can’t stand to throw food away so I grabbed it before it was tossed. I put¬†on my creative cap¬†and scanned the refrigerator for some ideas.¬† There was one lonesome potato, a large piece of onion and I found some veggie broth in my freezer.

I’ve also been experimenting with how to make creamy sauces without cream, milks or cheese. Did you know that¬†a handful of¬†soaked nuts mixed with a little avocado makes a SUPER creamy sauce?

I have to tell you, the first time I blended all these ingredients, I was so disappointed with myself for not taking photos to share. Who knew it would have turned out this DELICIOUS!

It was so good, I had to make it again so I could share with all of you!!

Vegan soup

Vegan Potato Leek Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Nutritional info: Calories: 204, Fat: 16.2g (saturated 2.2g), Carbohydrates: 11.2g, Dietary Fiber 3.3g, Sugars: 2.2g, Protein: 6g

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 medium yellow potato (one cup chopped)
  • 1/2¬†cup soaked/skinned almonds (or cashews)
  • 1 cup sliced leeks
  • 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried¬†thyme
  • Fresh Thyme for a garnish (I used Lemon-Thyme)

Directions

  1. In Vitamix (or high powered blender) blend vegetable broth, soaked nuts and avocado until smooth (high setting for about 2 minutes). Set aside.
  2. Peel and chop potato into small cubes. Add to a pot of boiling water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.
  3. Soak the leeks in water for about 5 minutes. Rinse and drain well.
  4. In a sauté pan, add olive oil, leeks, onion and garlic. Sautee for 8 minutes on a medium heat.
  5. Add potatoes, sea salt, thyme and onion powder to the leek mixture. Sauté for 3 minutes.
  6. Add half the potato mixture to the broth mixture. Blend on high until smooth (about 1 minute).
  7. Add the rest of the potato mixture to the Vitamix and blend on 3 (low if you’re using a different blender) for 15 seconds.
  8. Sprinkle with fresh lemon-thyme for a garnish.

Serve hot or cold!!

Step-By-Step

The first time I made this recipe, I used soaked cashews.¬†When I decided to make it again, I didn’t have any cashews so I improvised with almonds. Both the cashews and the almonds made a terrific soup. The cashews were a little less work, but if all you have is almonds, here’s what to do:

  • Put¬†a half a cup of almonds in a cup of warm water for two hours.
  • Rinse and drain.
  • Pull skins off the almonds. This is super easy. Just put the almond between your thumb and index finger and give a little squeeze. The almond will pop right out of the skin.
  • If you’re using cashews, all you need to do is soak them for 2 hours, then rinse and drain.

11328999_935636493153485_562172698_n

Add soaked nuts, avocado and vegetable broth to Vitamix, blend on high for 2 minutes (until smooth).

11349013_935636406486827_1618631898_n

Just LOOK how creamy that is!!!

Peel and chop potato into small cubes. Add to a pot of  boiling water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.

Be sure and soak/rinse the sliced leeks. If you don’t, they will be gritty.

In a sauté pan, add olive oil, leeks, onions and garlic. Sautee for 8 minutes on a medium heat.

11118332_935636386486829_161954853_n

Add boiled potatoes and spices to the sauté pan. Sautee for 3 minutes.

11428974_935636363153498_1960513000_n

Add half the potato mixture to the broth in the Vitamix. Blend for one minute, until smooth.

Add the other half of the potato mixture to the Vitamix. Blend on low (I used 3) for 15 seconds (just enough to break everything into smaller pieces but leave enough for texture.

11324157_935636136486854_2115848800_n

I scraped the left over leeks out of the skillet and added them as a garnish to my bowl (along with the lemon-thyme).

11425656_935636276486840_2006190935_n

Serve Hot or Cold!!

11428572_935636073153527_1477795670_n

Happy Eating!! Thanks for stopping by, Rene’

Christians Are Like Vegetarians

Recently, my husband and I went into Cabela’s (a hunting/fishing/gaming store). When we walked in, I was shocked at all the taxidermy animals. Deer, beavers, bears, large birds and many other critters. All posed in life-like stances with a setting of trees and rocks. As we made it to the back of the store, I became fixated on¬†a huge buffalo above my head. Frozen in my steps, I just looked into his eyes (well, the plastic ones) and imagined him out in nature living his life, minding his own business.

As I tend to do, my thoughts started to get away from me and I began to imagine him with his family. I wondered if he had little ones that were left behind when a hunter came along and took his life.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this post is not an anti-hunting PETA kind of post. I am just giving a little background on where this story is going. Please read on …..

My husband came to me and asked, “why the tears?” snapping me out of my thoughts.

We left the store and I couldn’t get the image of that buffalo out of my mind. I was flooded with memories of cute animals.¬†A video where this guy was playing a trombone and all the cows came to listen……. Cows drawn to music!! Then another video of a cow playing with a¬†ball. I felt very convicted, like I just couldn’t eat meat anymore.

So I stopped……. Just like that, I became a vegetarian.

After two weeks, I noticed that I began to feel healthier and I had even lost a couple pounds. And what do we do (those of us on Social Media) when we have exciting news? I posted it on Facebook!!

My first response was from my uncle who said, “SO, what will you do with all those left-over Beef Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini HAHAHA”

I also received a few private messages. One asked me how I would continue with the recipe part of my blog – would it become only vegetarian? Another person asked me how I (as a vegetarian) and my husband (a “carnivore”) could¬†comfortably co-exist?

Without even thinking, these words came out, “it’s simple, being a vegetarian is kind of like being a Christian.”

“Hahahaha, ok???”

“Well, I have my faith and my religious beliefs but I don’t force them upon anyone, right? My eating habits are the same thing. I’ve made changes for myself and (just like my faith), I will share with others¬†that want to listen, but I wont judge anyone that doesn’t agree.”

As Christians, we walk through our days in the presence of non-believers. Just as vegetarians walk in the presence of meat eaters. We co-exist with people different than us. We walk through life setting examples, hoping someone will want what we have.

Maybe someone will see me and think, “wow, her skin looks great” or “she’s lost weight, how did¬†she do it”.. Then I can share my new lifestyle change and maybe someone will want to change their lifestyle because of the example I set.

Isn’t our Christian faith the same?

By our example we can bring others to Christianity. I’ve had people say to me, “you seem so peaceful and happy, what’s your secret?” I’ve been¬†able to share my faith and talk about God. Telling people how He changed my life and how He brings peace to every situation because I know HE is in control.

What kind of examples are you setting in your life? Do people want what you have?

I saw an episode of “Wife Swap” (where two polar opposite wife’s are swapped for two weeks – in the hopes that each wife can teach another family a different way of doing things). Now I don’t watch television very often, but this one I had to watch. A Christian wife was swapped with an Atheist wife. Each wife tried to teach the other family a new way of doing things. By the end, a few minor things changed for each family, but neither had adopted a new way of living.

During the final interview when each spouse was confronted by the other family, the Atheist father had tears in his eyes and said, “you wanna know the hardest part of my lifestyle? It’s being faced with judgmental Christians who look down on me for not being like them. It hurts because I am a good hearted, hard working man”.

That moment was burned into my memory.¬†I thought, “how can we bring people to Christianity if we are judging them for the lives they currently live?” Why would an Atheist want to be a Judgmental Christian? It made me sad.

Imagine if all the Atheist of the world were confronted with Christians that just loved them, cared for them, prayed for them (without rubbing their noses in it). What kind of an impact could we have if we just spread joy, kindness, an unconditional love (like Jesus shares with us).

We can’t force people to adopt our way of life. All we can do is live by example, by our actions, by our unconditional love¬†– God will do the rest ūüôā

Thanks for stopping by. See you soon, Rene’

blog photo

*by the way, if you are following for the great recipes, stay tuned for some amazing vegetarian surprises (I will still be posting meaty deliciousness as well – hubby still has to eat ūüôā