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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The BEST Spaghetti Sauce...Ever

So here's the post all of you have all been waiting for. Ok, like a whole two or three of you....but still... :)  If you try the sauce I think you'll be very happy indeed. I love food and having lived in major metropolitan areas on both coasts (Sacramento and NYC, respectively) and now living near the Gulf Coast I like to think I know good food when I taste it.

This recipe is not mine, but it is from a friend of Italian ancestry. It is her Aunt Lou's recipe.

Let me state to begin with that spaghetti has a sketchy history in my family consisting of five kids and two adults. It's fast, easy...and some sauces come in cans therefore we are no strangers to spaghetti sauces. We've had our fair share. The track record has been pretty steady- if four or more in our family like it (understanding that parent's votes count double) then it will likely be made again. This has led to some dinnertime rebellion around here, I admit. Children have been known to be bribed with garlic bread.

This sauce is something special. My five children are 18, 16, 9, 6 and 3. Only one child, ONE, considers this sauce so-so. This child is older than 9yo and apparently of questionable palette. The 3yo? She asked for seconds. :)

I LOVE this sauce. My husband said "It was really good!" This is the man who does not share my affinity for all things Italian. (Unless, of course, we are talking John's of 12th Street in the Little Italy area of Manhattan.) It took all my restraint to limit my taste testings. Ok, in truth, I did not limit them. :)

My 9yo who abhors anything fruit or vegetable actually said this sauce was 'Not bad!'. This is the self-same child who would beg for PB&J when faced with the possibility of lesser sauces. He ate every.single.bite- even all the pasta. If you knew this child you would truly understand the magnitude of this feat.

Without any further ado:

 Aunt Lou's Spaghetti Sauce
Or as I like to call it: The VERY BEST, Most Fantabulous Spaghetti Sauce ....Ever.

Minced garlic (I used 5 fresh cloves)
1 Green bell pepper
1 Onion
Mushrooms (I used one can)
1 Red Bellpepper ( I had a roasted yellow one in the freezer and used that)
~~~I chopped/minced/pulverized all the above in a small appliance due to the aforementioned non-veggie loving child and the mutiny that was sure to ensue should ANY of my clan spot a mushroom~~

Olive oil
Italian Seasonings - Basil, Oregano, Sage, Bayleaf  ( I used 2 Bay leaves and approximately 1 TBSP each of the rest)
5 cans Tomato Sauce
1 can Diced tomatoes ( I used Delmonte's basil, garlic and oregano)
1 can Tomato paste
1/4 C Brown Sugar (I used natural cane Turbinado sugar)
1C Romano, Asagio, Parmesean cheese blend
( I used a blend that also had aged provolone and only used 1/2 C because my blend struck me as strong. 1C would have been fine.)
1/2 C Red wine- Merlot, Pinot Noir or Sweet red. (I used Sweet Red.)
Ground beef (I used 1 lb and added sauce to it to get the thickness of sauce I like.)

Pour 4 TBSP Olive oil in a Dutch Oven and heat over Med. heat. Sautee diced/minced veggies in oil until onions are transparent. Add Tomato paste and sautee about another 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (EXCEPT meat). Season to taste. Drop in a hardboiled egg (or 3) and Simmer 2-3 hours on Low heat.

Yield: I made one dinner of spaghetti with Meat sauce ( for 7 with 2 servings left over), 1 dinner of Parmesan chicken, and I could make one more spaghetti meal for at least 5, perhaps 7 people from this one batch. I think my Dutch Oven is 6 qts.  and there was some room left over while making this.

My friend had told me about the hard boiled eggs and how much she loves them, and since I love them in general I tossed in two. As soon as the sauce was done simmering, I ate the eggs. I have no idea if there is any other purpose for the eggs other than a tasty snack. A tasty snack is reason enough for me! :)

ETA: My 6yo just ran and tackled me as I sit here telling me " I LOVE the chicken! It's my most favoritest chicken ever!" It's non-breaded Parmesan chicken. Guess which sauce I used? Yep. You nailed it. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Does our theology reflect Christ's example, or our own fears?

I have been reading the book "Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism" by Joel Carpenter who was a Provost of Calvin College for a decade and left that position in 2006 to direct The Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity.

I initially bought the book for my husband as he knows Joel Carpenter personally and I thought he'd enjoy reading it. The book's title intrigued me so I decided it was worth a read for myself. :) I have found it very interesting from the perspective of one who's first foray into the church as a child was into a Fundamentalist denomination. It has been intriguing and enlightening to see how American Fundamentalist thinking and theology has developed and been shaped in part by world events since the early 1900's and I'm still just less than half-way through the book. I have also found it rather informative in helping me to understand where I am now (in the Southern Baptist denomination) and seeing the very strong, dare I say inescapable, influence of Fundamentalism not only within my denomination, but also within the world of politics.

On page 100, Joel has a short section labeled "The Mark of the Beast: Social and Political Alienation". This section, in particular, arrested my attention.  I have long been at odds with the thinking of other Christians regarding governmental social programs to help the less fortunate. In this section, Carpenter is explaining in historical context the shaping of American Fundamentalism (in the 1930's) and how it's dispensationalist point of view came to be reflected in it's politics and ideas about social reform. He wrote:

     "Dispensationalists tended to be suspicious of social reform campaigns....In their darker moods, dispensationalists suggested progressives' drive for governmental solutions was preparing the world for the reign of the Antichrist. Progressiveism marked the honest efforts of well-meaning people, but they were fundamentally mistaken about God's plan for the ages. Their efforts showed an unwitting movement toward the dictatorial spirit that would dominate the end-times."

     "Predictably, fundamentalist's looked askance at the New Deal's ventures into economic and social planning."

     "Dispensationalists had a good idea of where those forces were leading. The "present world movement," the editor of Bibliotheca Sacra judged was, "progressing away from democracy or republicanism toward dictatorial centralized power." Some of the actions of the New Dealers were strikingly similar to those prophesied as part of the Antichrist's regime, fundamentalist's thought."

     "Preconditioned by their political instincts toward individualism and populist antielitism, it was relatively easy for fundamentalists to see Beastlike tendencies in New Deal economic planning and to remain alienated from the public arena. James M. Gray's call for serene detachment was fairly typical: "Whatever comes, the saints can remain undisturbed, for 'He is their refuge and their portion in the land of the living.' "

I have long been baffled at how many claim Christ, yet seem to care so little for the less fortunate in society at large, unless of course the less fortunate happen to live in another country. I am not belittling missions by any means, but I do think that we need to be careful of a cognitive dissonance between our theology and our actions, or orthopraxy, where we have the most constant influence as we move about in our daily lives. I think we often sit in our pews content in our opinion that we are living in what many feel is a "Christian" nation thus requiring little of us on a personal level.

After reading the above, I am left with questions. Simple questions such as "If the fundamentalist point-of-view is that the 'end times' will usher in a dictatorial government why do they find themselves, in my opinion,  striving against God's plan? Does it not show fear of what they believe is to come? If God has indeed revealed that it will happen in such a manner, why not accept it and in the meantime embrace the compassionate aspects that will allow those less fortunate to be better cared for instead of ignoring their plight?" Sure, it's simplistic, but the Gospel is simple. To ignore the plight of others either physically or spiritually is to be neglectful and utterly lack compassion. One need not look far into the gospels to see that compassion was integral to the person of Christ.

We are told the world will know that we are His by our love one for another. I do not believe our love is to only be reflected in how we treat others who claim Christ (people like ourselves), nor does that follow Christ's example.  I believe the world will also know we are His by the love we have one for another....period. Regardless of others' religious persuasion or humanness, however those may manifest.

What speaks to me about Christ and His person on a personal level is the love and compassion that He exhibited, and continues to exhibit, for me, a person filled with a multitude of sins and imperfections. Even though He was/is the very God of the universe He humbled himself and took the form of a servant seeking out and ministering to those who needed it never exhibiting an air of superiority and eventually dying for all. I will submit that it was through this compassion that He was granted credibility in the eyes of those who crossed his path, and even in my own heart. In seeing his obvious compassion, people (such as myself) were then open to hear his message of hope and a future.

How credible are we?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Clouded Composition (photo)

This week's theme in the G+ Project 52 is "Rule of Thirds".

Clouded Composition
(Click photo for a better view.)

Following the "Rule of Thirds"  is viewed as a generally accepted and aesthetically pleasing way to compose one's photos. The goal is to have the main points (or point) of interest intersect where the lines of the grid cross each other, or to follow one of the two horizontal or vertical lines as shown below. Very rarely do you want the subject to be smack in the middle of your photo.

My photo gridded to illustrate the Rule of Thirds.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winter in the deep south. (Photo)

This weeks Google+ Project 52 photo:

 Theme: Winter

Living as I do, in the deep south, I struggled to find an image that I thought would depict winter adequately. When thinking of winter my mind envisions frost, ice, or even snow. Can you tell I'm not from here? :)

These are the leaves of a banana tree all withered away due to brief 'cold snaps' we've had. In the summer banana leaves enchant me with their subtly ribbed texture and flowing leaves clothed in alluring shades of green. Strangely, I find myself compelled by their current state - drawn to their texture, color and even the mottled pattern of decay on what were once vibrant leaves.

(Click image for better viewing)

Wasted Winter

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Portraits Are More Than Paper.

We've oft heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

A photo can reveal a lot about someone...about a family. One can see the daughter who has her father's eyes, the son with his mother's smile, or the granddaughter with her grandfather's smile.  Through a photograph one can observe the love between a couple, or the playfulness within a family. Photos provide not only a sense of place, but also a visual, historical record that can answer a child's questions such as "Do I look like anyone in my family tree?" or an adult's query of what the house their parent grew up in looked like.

Through moments captured digitally (or on film) our departed loved ones live on in a tangible way. We can still touch them, and they us, if only through a photograph. Photographs tell stories, they spark our memories reminding us of the shape of one's mouth, the curve of their smile, or the textures of a person's hands after a life of toil.

I have precious photos of my mother-in-law with my children in various situations, the usual birthdays and such, but also in quiet moments as she was snuggling a sleeping baby, or helping a child with a task, or rather letting a child 'help' her.  I have never been so grateful of my penchant for photography as when the memories call me back in time and the photos vividly bring back those fleeting, precious moments.

I wish we'd had the opportunity for professional portraits with my mother-in-law. Some were attempted, but fell far short in execution. I'm still sad about that, but remain forever grateful that I  had used my own camera liberally over the years.

The blog title is not mine. It is taken, in part, from the blog post linked below. Please, read it.

As I've been typing this I await news on the results of emergency surgery of one dear friend with an unknown tumor, and later today another sweet friend must hand her infant over for necessary open heart surgery. Life can turn in an instant. Make and record memories.

**Always make certain that any photographer you choose for your precious memories has more than just a fancy camera- make sure they know how to use it and even how to focus it properly with a group. If photographs are to be taken inside- make sure the photographer is knowledgeable in how to properly light the area in order to ensure the best possible results and proper exposure. View their portfolio!**

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Embers of Yesteryear (photo)

I am participating in a year long photo project on Google+.  Below is my submission for this week's theme: New Year's Day.

(Click photo to enlarge within a lightbox for better viewing.)

May your New Year be filled with hope, happiness and faith!