Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen!

This morning we went to church with my parents, which is my yearly tradition. I actually don't know that I can remember a single Easter where I haven't been at Calvary. The pastor greeted the church by saying "He is risen!" and the congregation seemed to agree but waited for him to proceed. He told us that in the early church, believers greeted one another by the first saying "He is risen!" and the person being greeted replied by saying "He is risen indeed!" What a great reminder that would be if we still carried on that tradition! Anyway, the pastor stepped away from the podium and tried again so the church could respond appropriately and we did. Good stuff.

I have no room to pass judgment, as I so often forget even during the season of lent and even on Easter weekend what Easter is all about (not to mention how many times I "cheated" during lent), but it always amazes me the way Easter seems to be celebrated more and more in the United States... big spring parties and picnics or brunches - but no church? The Easter bunny but no Jesus? Even by people who "believe". It is heart breaking to me to see families, especially with children, out on the town on Sunday mornings. Man, it's tempting to sleep in on Sunday and have a second Saturday! I've been guilty of it many times myself but as much fun as it can be I know ultimately I'm missing out. God deserves my worship and devotion but He certainly doesn't need it - He'll still be God whether I acknowledge it or not! I'm thankful that faithful church attendance has been ingrained in me since I was a child. Yes, I know plenty of people show up at church with a totally cold heart, only out of obligation or tradition, so there's nothing magical about occupying a seat on a pew. But God uses it to work on my heart so many times! Anyway, I hope that doesn't sound self righteous, I just can't say enough how vital being a part of the church body is to the growth of a Christian! I've had this conversation with many people - and until you've experienced being part of a church the way I've been blessed to - its so hard for others to fathom that its not some dreadful obligation! In no way is my salvation or any one else's determined by how many times I've showed up at church - its irrelevant! That's the beautiful thing. Richard and I are going through what is essentially a "new members" class at the church we've been attending and we were talking about what sets the Christian faith apart and the pastor pointed out something I'd never realized: Christianity is the only faith where the "higher power" comes down to us - in all other religions, earning salvation or a ticket to heaven is all about climbing up to reach some unattainable or unquantifiable goal of being worthy, and there is no certainty of the future. Christianity is not at all about what we can do to earn salvation, but all about what Christ did for us on the cross - praise God for that! The pastor compared it to a parent jumping into the pool in their backyard to rescue the child who had wandered outside and had fallen to the bottom. The parent pulls the lifeless child out and performs CPR - resuscitating the child, breathing life back into him.

Paul explains it very succinctly in Romans 3:21-25a "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." I hope your Easter Sunday was joyful!

Now on to cooking! I made a couple fun things last week and a salad that has become tradition at Easter lunch. About a year ago I first attempted what sounded like a daunting task: Risotto! I followed the directions carefully and it turned out so well, the guy who came to the door to sell the Chronicle commented on how good it smelled while I was cooking it so I lightly said if he came back in 30 minutes I would give him some (Richard was there, don't worry I wouldn't invite someone in my home if I was alone!) not expecting him to return - but sure enough, 30 minutes or so later, there was a knock on the door... so I shared some of this goodness with him.

Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp (Filippo Berio website)

1 can (14 oz) chicken broth
2 1/2 c water
2 1/2 T olive oil, divided
1 sm onion, chopped
1 1/4 c Arborio rice (important! must use this type of rice!)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 c dry white wine
1# thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
1# medium shrimp, peeled
1/2 c (2oz) Parmesean cheese, grated

1. Heat the water and broth in a pot, reduce heat to low.

2. In a dutch oven set over medium heat, warm 1 T olive oil. Add the onion, and cook, stirring for 3 minutes or until golden. Add the rice and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring until coated with oil. Add the wine. Increase the heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes, or until the wine is absorbed. Reduce the heat to medium low. Start timing your cooking. Add 1/2 cup of the broth mixture and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the broth, 1/2 c at a time and stirring frequently.

3. Meanwhie, in a large saute pan, heat 1 T oil and 2 T chicken broth mixture. Add the asparagus and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Cover and cook, tossing occassionally, about 4 minutes or until the asparagus is bright green. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes or until the shrimp is opaque. Remove from the heat.

4. After 18 minutes of cooking, start testing the rice which should be tender but hold its shape. When it is cooked (which for me takes at least 30-40min), remove from heat. (You probably won't use all of the broth mixture). Add the shrimp, asparagus, and any pan juices. Add the cheese and remaining 1/2 T oil. Stir.

The risotto gets progressively thicker - kind of like old fashioned oatmeal. I think it has to do with the starches coming out. It gets frustrating waiting for it to be an edible texture - just keep adding the broth and cooking. I sometimes end up turning the heat up a smidge toward the end.

Two of my favorite ingredients! Love me some shrimp and asparagus! Combines beautifully!
This is not a quick, 30 minute dinner - but so worth it when you have the time.

For each of 4 generous servings: 534 calories and 18 gm fat - which seems high but it is a meal in itself and when you consider the 1800-2000 cal/day and 60-65gm fat/day women need, its not unreasonable. I did that math myself, friends - YOU ARE WELCOME!

I made this Sunday afternoon to eat Monday night - it makes a ton! I made it for a dinner party last time, and this time I was able to give about half to a friend. You could also freeze them for a future meal! I didn't put the sauce on until right before putting them in the oven.

Stuffed pasta shells (courtesy of my mom!)

1 egg

1 lb. ground beef (I used turkey this time - 93% lean)

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained

15 oz ricotta cheese (I used reduced fat)

1# grated mozzarella cheese

salt and pepper

manicotti shells or jumbo pasta shells (cooked a little firm)

prepared spaghetti sauce (I used HEB brand portabello & onion - 30cal/serving)

1. Mix egg, beef, spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, and salt and pepper together.

2. Stuff into large pasta shells.

3. Place in large casserole dish (I use 2) and pour spaghetti sauce on top.

4. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

The ingredients look odd but come together deliciously!

This is 1 of 2 dishes - there is enough stuffing for 30 shells, my box came with 40-something. You can always put some sauce with the leftover noodles for an easy lunch.

3 shells are a pretty satisfying meal for me - I think Richard ate 5! I served w/ salad. Each shell is 120 calories and 5gm fat if made with the ingredients I listed in parenthesis. I had to do the math again by hand, so it would vary a little with different ingredients.

Spring Pea and Asparagus Panzanella Salad

1 # medium asparagus, trimmed

1 c. fresh basil leaves

4 T. olive oil, divided

3/4 tsp salt, divided

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 (5oz.) box seasoned croutons

1 c. fresh or frozen green peas, boiled until tender and drained

1/2 c. thinly sliced green onions

1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice plus another 1/2 tsp for dressing

1 head thinly sliced radicchio (looks like a small head of red cabbage)

1 cup arugula or baby spinach leaves (I used a whole 6oz bag of baby spinach)

2 oz wedge ricotta salata or Parmesean cheese for garnish

1. Cut off the tender tips of the asparagus, reserving both the tips and the spears.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus tips and cook briefly until the color brightens. Lift the tips out with a slotted spoon and allow to cool. Add asparagus spears and cook until tender, about 5 minutes; drain well.

3. Put the asparagus spears in a food processor or blender along with the basil leaves, 3 T olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper. Puree until smooth.

4. In a large bowl, combine croutons, asparagus tips, peas and green onions. Add the asparagus puree and toss to coat. Add 1 1/2 T lemon juice and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. (Note: this should not be done until very close to serving time because the croutons get soggy!)

5. In a separate bowl, combine the radicchio and spinach or arugula. Dress with the remaining 1 T olive oil, remaining 1/4 tsp salt and and remaining lemon juice. Toss well.

6. Mound the greens on a serving platter. Arrange asparagus and crouton mixture on top of the greens.

7. With a cheese plane or vegetable peeler, shave some cheese over the top for garnish, if desired.

8. Serve immediately.

For each of 8 servings - 257 calories (from Health magazine)