Tag Archives: cuisine

Another Perspective on Sin

It’s interesting how we view and rationalize sin.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy.  To maintain that position we must completely throw out 1 Thessalonians 4:7.  Why should we try to be holy, anyway?  Joel Osteen sure makes Christianity sound easy with a limp wristed god that will give us a fancy car just so that we will bless him with our presence.  How can anyone even want to submit to an impotent god that will shower us with gifts so that we will spend time with him?  Oh wait.  We don’t.  Even people that subscribe to Osteen’s brand of Christianity probably are more concerned with what God will do for them than what God has done for them.

We can fall into another pit when we believe that God made us this way (whatever this way happens to be), so God must be pleased with our current fallen condition.  As a matter of fact, since He made us this way, wouldn’t our present condition be more desirable than holiness?  I have heard the argument, “I was born gay, therefore God made me this way.”  I can just as easily say, “I was was born with a predilection to alcohol, so if I choose to be a drunk it is because God made me this way.”  The rapist can cay that they were born with these tendencies, so ultimately, God created the rapist.

If this argument was valid, Paul would have not addressed the Church in Corinth with, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)  So was Paul mistaken when labeling certain people as deviants?  Who is right?  Are Paul’s words divinely inspired, or should I lean upon my own understanding? (Proverbs 3:5)

I’m also intrigued when someone resorts to pragmatism as a defense to homosexuality.  Usually, the argument is meant to divert the attention from homosexuality to adultery.  I agree that adultery is sinful and should be addressed, and at least in the case of my church, these matters are dealt with in a biblical manner.  Notice that there is no argument that adultery is sinful.  When someone who supports homosexuality by equating it with the normalization of adultery, he just admitted that homosexuality is a sin.  Otherwise, he would have defended adultery as natural, or preferable, but would not assent to the fact that it is sinful.  What was 1 Thessalonians again?  The ESV states, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”  That sounds nothing like “adultery isn’t that bad or God reveres homosexual practices.”

From our perspective, we may try to minimize our guilt.  Is lying really all that bad?  If lying is okay in certain circumstances, then maybe adultery is acceptable.  Afterall, illicit sex isn’t really immoral (as long as no one gets hurt and both parties want to engage in sexual deviancy).  From there, it’s not a stretch to say that homosexuality is natural, and maybe even more than just an alternative lifestyle.  But is this our view of sin or is it God’s view?

The only thing that matters is God’s perspective regarding sin.  If sin wasn’t so deadly, we would not have continuous warnings.  Paul states, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)  The issue at hand is not merely homosexuality.  The problem is with all sin.  We are called to be holy and we will be judged accordingly.  All sin is unnatural.  They are abominations, yet we try to normalize them because we believe that our feelings are more important than our God.

CC image courtesy of Bront Nolson.

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Maple Cake with Mocha Frosting

A friend of mine lent me her stand mixer so I could see if I wanted (or needed) to buy one myself.  I have been baking a lot of cakes lately, and depending on where I have been baking them, I either mixed them with a hand mixer or by hand with an authoritative spoon.  It is work using a hand mixer, but when you are cooking full sized sheet cakes with nothing more than a spoon, it becomes work.  Fast.  The stand mixer runs laps around my puny arm.

This is much more effective than my puny arm.
This is much more effective than my puny arm.

Today, I decided to create a maple cake with mocha buttercream frosting.  I loosely based this cake on the same recipe I posted the other day.  As a matter of fact, this cake is nothing like it.  The required ingredients are as follows:

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I’m using Honduran extract)

 

Frosting

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup baking cocoa

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coffee extract

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix butter in a bowl with brown sugar until smooth.  Blend in maple syrup and oil.  Slowly add flour, salt, and baking soda.  Once well mixed, add two eggs and buttermilk.  Finish off with a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Greased 9 x 13 sheet pan and pour in batter.  Bake approximately 30-40 minutes.

While cake is baking, beat 1/2 stick butter with whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, and whipping cream.  Once smooth, add vanilla and coffee extracts.

Maple cake with mocha frosting.
Maple cake with mocha frosting.

Pour frosting over cake while still warm.

Enjoy.

Note:  The edges of the cake seemed a little hard, so next time I will try with white sugar instead of brown sugar.

Cinnamon Chocolate Cake

Note:  the featured image above is from a full sheet cake.  the cake wasn’t thick as I didn’t have a high walled cake pan.  Cakes are better when they are so tall they won’t fit into your mouth unless you unhinge your jaw like a rattlesnake.  Photo was taken by Josh Guthrie.

Over the past few weeks I have been looking up cake recipes and even had a few ideas of my own.  My family loved the chocolate-peanut butter cake with banana frosting.  Personally, I thought it was too sweet and the peanut butter seemed to overpower the banana.

This isn’t a cake recipe, but recently I made peanut butter-bananas foster chimachangas with marshmallow.  That was our supper one night.  Again, the family loved it, but it was too sweet for me.  I’d like to revisit both  make some adjustments to make these winners.

I have an exceedingly hard time following recipes.  Yes, I can read.  Yes, I can follow simple directions.  Just not in the kitchen.  Does that happen to you?  At the last moment, I always have something I want to change to make it better.  With this impromptu baking I have learned that cakes, breads, etc. can be very forgiving.

I did find a recipe that was anomalous.  It was a cake recipe that I had no desire to change.  I have make this cake four or five times in the past month mostly for me to gorge on, but the family loves it and so does everyone else who has tried it.

I cannot eat enough of this cinnamon-chocolate cake.  Instead of walnuts I used pecans. That’s what was in the pantry. Today’s cake was a little different as I only had enough granulated white sugar for half of what the recipe calls for. The other half was brown sugar.  See, these changes were out of necessity, otherwise I would have *gasp* followed the recipe as written.

I just ate a piece and it was moist and airy.  Doesn’t Mexican chocolate have cinnamon in it?  This recipe just has enough cinnamon to wake up the chocolate.  Chocolate is great.  The cinnamon enhances the chocolate flavor that you cannot rest until the cake is devoured.

Today's cake.  I made this four times or so in the past month.
Today’s cake. I made this four times or so in the past month.

I really wish I could take credit for this cake. I’m considering a cinnamon-maple cake with coffee frosting. If it’s worthy of sharing, you’ll be the first to know.

Chicken, Pork, and Sausage Jambalaya

I’ve been a fan of spicy cajun food my entire adult life. I began teaching myself to cook sixteen years ago and have enjoyed trying to make cajun dishes that were palatable. It is no coincidence that I started my cooking journey a week after I met my wife.

I’m sure it’s a typical story. I met Heather 12/11/2007. The following weekend she invited me over for dinner. Man, was I stoked! I love food. I can’t believe I met a woman who could cook.

I showed up for dinner at the appointed time and was surprised that we were eating Hamburger Helper. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Hamburger Helper, but on a first meal at home you put your best foot forward. That night I decided that I was going to learn how to cook. The following weekend I began my foray.

That first meal was one I made one or two times prior. We had spaghetti with homemade sauce. It was quite tasty as I watched a friend make it numerous times. This friend was a good cook, but he never let me get any hands on experience. I watched him intently for two years as I was surfing his couch.

When I first started cooking, say the first five years, not all meals were as tasty as that spaghetti. I worked until midnight and the first year or two, I would go to Albertsons after work and make pot roast, pork chops, even chicken fried steak. I’d normally eat around four am and it was common for me to crank out some meal complete with mashed potatoes and gravy. Many of these meals were disappointments, and occasionally were downright inedible. Today, I rarely make something that embarrasses me to feed to my dogs.  If I get distracted the dogs may have some awful treat to enjoy.

My culinary skills have vastly improved over the past three years. I have many friends who are professional chefs and they are always happy to give me cooking tips. I like to tell people that I’m finally becoming an adequate cook.

Today, I had to make jambalaya for a catering event. I’ve made it before, but I haven’t been happy with previous efforts. There is money on the line here so I have to make sure it is acceptable.

I looked through recipes and decided I could adapt this one. I made several changes and I hope you are happy with this endeavor. I hope you try it and tell me what you think.

I just remembered that I forgot bay leaves. I intended to add maybe seven to the pot. Remember that this recipe is for 50. You can use some fancy math like division to reduce the amount. I’d do it for you except I’m lazy.

Here’s the ingredient list:
5 pounds pork loin
15 pounds bone in chicken thighs (after deboning you will have around ten pounds of meat)
5 pounds sausage
3/4 pound bacon
2 large onions
3 bell peppers
1 bunch celery
3 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp chili powder (I used New Mexico Hatch chili powder I ordered online)
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp dry thyme
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
10 cups rice
21 cups water
6-8 ounces chicken base

Add all dry ingredients in a bowl to add later.

Marinating pork loin.
Marinating pork loin.

Trim pork loin and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Marinate in soy sauce, mustard powder, and white pepper.  I didn’t use a lot of any of these ingredients, just enough to coat.  Marinate in refrigerator for two hours.

Place chicken thighs on baking sheets.  Cover liberally with Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning.  Roast at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Chicken cooling.  Don't forget to debone.
Chicken cooling. Don’t forget to debone.

Remove chicken from oven and let cool.  Meanwhile, chop vegetables.  Since you have the knife out, chop smoked sausage into 1/4″ rounds.

Down Home is one of my favorite sausages.  They manufacture it in Stonewall, LA, which is maybe fifteen minutes from where I live.  I couldn’t find a website for the company, but I included a link to a radio station I used to work at where they give the down low on the Down Home.  No, I have not received any plugola.  If they gave me free sausage, there would be plugola, but I would tell you about it.  Somehow, I don’t think it’s plugola unless it’s a secret, though.

Last thing to cut up is to cut up the bacon.  Cut that into small pieces.  Once cut, toss the bacon into a heated pot to render.  Once partially rendered, throw in the marinated pork loin.  After it is browned it is time to put the sausage in.

I was watching some cooking show a couple of years ago where this old man was cooking a monster pot of jambalaya outside.  He kept saying that you want to cook the sausage so it is scabbed up.  He’s right, you want scabby sausage.  I was unable to do it this time because of the sheer volume, but when I have a manageable batch, I cook the sausage so it is nice and scabby.

Before you blow scabby chunks, let me explain.  This old cajun may or may not have gotten all technical on us, but he was describing the maillard reaction.  Chemistry stuff happens to the meat when you brown it.  Think of a really nice crust on a steak.  That crust is the scab this old coot was describing.

No scabs on the sausage. I’m just not awesome enough to do it with this huge batch. If I had a tilt skillet, though, I would’ve rocked the scabs.

When you have a scabbed up pot of sausage, you want to add the vegetables and saute until soft and the onion is translucent.  I wait until this moment to add the chicken.  Remember that chicken?  Well, we forgot to debone it.  So, before you burn up a pot of meat, be sure to have deboned the chicken prior to firing up the stove.  After it’s deboned, I spread it back onto a baking sheet, apply some more Tony Cachere’s, and let it crisp up some at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Now that we are back on track, don’t add the chicken until the vegetables are sauteed.  This way, you can avoid tearing up the meat from over stirring and whatnot.

This is the moment to add your dry spices and Worcestershire sauce.

I add the base to the water and stir until well mixed.  Then it’s time to add the rice and base-infused water.

Jambalaya is ready to simmer.
Jambalaya is ready to simmer.

Simmer the conglomeration of meat and rice for around 50 minutes while occasionally stirring.  It is actually desirable to have the food stick to the bottom of the pan to get some crusty bits.  Remember?  Maillard reaction?

One big, swingin' pot of jambalaya.

Once the water is absorbed, it’s time to eat.  Enjoy.

Best. Cornbread. Ever.

I have to admit that I don’t eat cornbread very often. I like it alright, but I think the sensation of having sand in your bread is a bit off-putting.

There are basically two types of cornbread: sweet cornbread and not sweet cornbread. I mistakenly thought southerners like sweet cornbread. I guess I shouldn’t make assumptions based on a southern friend who always shared his sweet cornbread with me at work.

I had a catering event yesterday and made a nice batch of cornbread. As a matter of fact, I was so enamored by it, I had to continually share my experience.

The caterees also shared their experiences. They likened the cornbread to cake and claim they thought they had two desserts. Claim #1: cake is good. Cakey cornbread is great. Claim #2: are two desserts such a bad thing? Of course not.

I perused many recipes and finally found one that I wanted to adapt.

1/2 cup corn meal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar (I reduced the sugar. I can’t stand hyper sweet)
1 1/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (buttermilk rocks for baking)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (trust me)

The directions are all the same in the original recipe except after the cornbread comes out of the oven.

This is when you grab a stick of butter and slather it over the top. There is nothing more satisfying. You don’t melt the whole stick, just enough to butter the top.

Finally, lightly dust the cornbread with cinnamon. It really makes it come alive. I know it may sound unconventional, but I’m sure you will enjoy it.

I now know that southerners should like sweet, cakey cornbread. And unsweetened iced tea.

The Real Pickle–Shreveport, LA

image
They bring a small bowl of these guys to you as you look over the menu.

Since Dave Ramsey took over our home two and a half years ago, we haven’t had many opportunities to go enjoy a meal.  Today was different because I was only with my fourteen year old daughter, Alli, so it wasn’t too hard on my pocketbook.

I try to frequent local places because franchises sometimes seem really stale, unless of course you are talking about Five Guys.  I just love those fries.  This afternoon was no exception and we decided to visit The Real Pickle.

It’s been here as long as I can remember.  I’ve only been here a couple of times prior, but those gastronomic experiences were definitely memorable.  I usually get the shrimp poboy with remoulade sauce because it has always been excellent.  Today, it was very good but it was too salty for my taste.  We were the first customers of the day.  Maybe the chef got too excited and oversalted the shrimp.  Maybe I cut him off in traffic one day and he finally had his chance to get back at me.  Nonetheless, I go light on the salt in my own cooking and I frequently have had meals at restaurants that were too salty for me.  Perhaps I’m just a salt wuss.

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These fries are nothing like Five Guys.

On the plus side, the prawns were breaded nice and happy and were a fried jubilee.  The spice level was excellent.  I love firey hot food, and typically if I can detect ANY heat, it’s too much for many people I know, but I was surprised with a nice, warm burn.  The remoulade was remoulade.  I don’t care where you get it.  Remoulade tastes great.  It tastes good on everything.  The bread was so light and crusty and had a hint of buttery delight.  The fries?  Well, they weren’t Five Guys.

Alli had a ham and something on a croissant.  It wasn’t mine, so I didn’t pay much attention to it.  She liked it and that is what’s important.

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Alli really enjoyed her ham and something sandwich.

In fine, (I’ve always wanted the opportunity to say “in fine” as I remember it from the poem “Richard Cory“).  In fine, the most important aspect was that I had an opportunity to spend some quality time with Alli.  I need to take her to another Texas BBQ joint soon, but that’s another story.