MJR: Food Free-For-All

Oh how I love food! Even though I like to cook—even love it some days—managing food can get tedious. When my freezer becomes backed up with prepared or partially prepared foods, I wince. My January Rest has become a rhythm to help me whittle down and weed through last year’s frozen, not-yet-chosen, foods.

This MJR has been a food free-for-all. Don’t panic, I haven’t started a food fight with my husband, but I have waged war to make a dent in my freezer reserve. I had prepared food and lots of frozen chopped celery, bell peppers, garlic cloves, ginger, stock, and many more odds and ends. While once I sang food glorious food, my new melody is space glorious space!

Odds and ends bins

I have made a dent plus I’ve made some tasty and interesting foods! 

What have I made you ask? Shepherd’s Pie with a Rosemary Yukon Gold potato topper. The Yukon Golds were nearing extinction. I boiled them with a sweet onion, several cloves of garlic, some fresh Rosemary, then whipped them up. For the filling I used some mixed veggies, leftover sloppy joe, and GF cream of mushroom soup. I assembled them in individual ramekins. For my vegetarian daughter, I made the base with lentils, the rosemary potatoes then topped them with cracked peppercorns to differentiate from our paprika topped meat pies. We all loved them.

I also made chicken noodle soup with leftover chicken, homemade stock, frozen garlic, celery from the freezer and fresh carrots. I used rice noodles to make it GF and with the richness of the homemade stock: it was superb! I had forgotten how nourishing a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup could be!

Tasty orts

I made three types of chili using a black bean and sweet potato chili tried and true recipe as my inspiration by using ingredients in my freezer or pantry that needed to be used. The first one was frozen hubbard squash that I planned on making squash soup with. Nope! Instead I made chili with cilantro, peppers, and black beans: it was great!

The second was a complete experiment. I had a can of pumpkin I didn’t use to make a pie with and I didn’t want it sitting around until next year, so…into the Instant Pot it went along with a half pound of spicy sausage, red and green bell peppers, onion, garlic, a hot pepper, diced tomatoes, white beans, and spices. Yes, I loved it and no it didn’t taste anything like pumpkin.

The third chili was my least favorite, even though everyone said it tasted good. Before our last trip I had overcooked three sweet potatoes in my Instant Pot. We hadn’t eaten them yet, so I pulled the skins off and threw them in the freezer for a time out. I made the black bean and sweet potato chili recipe, but because the sweet potatoes were whole instead of cubed, the chili had a stringy texture. I should have pureed them, like the canned pumpkin, and the hubbard squash. Live and learn. By the way, don’t hesitate to add a tablespoon of cocoa to this recipe because it is so good!

Part of the fun for this creative cook, was how to make three unique chilis that I didn’t get bored eating.

Fresh fruit, chicken stir-fry made out of freezer bounty, fried cheese curds, and assorted tasty salts

Today I made a stir fry with some of the odds and ends all out of the freezer: chopped celery, chicken, chopped ginger, orange bell pepper, garlic cloves, lentils, and bacon. I sautéed the veggies with the chopped bacon, then added the lentils, chicken, and seasoning. I drizzled it with a rosemary white balsamic vinegar. Surprisingly delicious and with the chicken, lentils, and even bacon, it was a great protein source.

I’ve used up most of the extra stash of chopped vegetables, so I’m done with chili for this month—three times in one month is enough, don’t you think?

Here is a quick (partial) list of other items used in MJR: I’ve nearly depleted much of my “Odds and Ends” bin; cold brewing tea for the first time (win!); oats with dried cherries and PB Fit (new idea: it adds good flavor, and protein); lighting old candles for each supper (no not food, but they sure make the food seem special!); using some specialty salt samples; and my husband bought fresh raspberries and black berries that were on sale (our whole family binged on their deliciousness!)

I discovered cold brewing tea — love!

One of MJR blessings is provision. There is a principle of need and want. When we always fulfill our own needs/wants because it is in our power to do it, we aren’t in the place for someone else to meet our needs/wants. I’ve learned to rest from the compulsion of wanting to provide for myself. Years ago I posted I was going to run out of mascara. I was laughing at envisioning myself digging in that tube for the last smudge of lash coat, but I was determined if I ran out, I ran out. When I got to church, someone slipped a sample-sized tube of mascara in my pocket. She had extras: out of my friend’s abundance, she met my need. And, it was the exact kind I use! More than whether I had mascara, or not, I learned what a joy it was to be provided for in such a surprising way.

This year I thought, “I might run out of coffee. Oh, well.” January I went to the studio to work, and when I opened my closet, surprise, there was a bag of coffee. I had purchased it, taken it out of the tote I needed to use, and sat it on the shelf. I don’t even have a coffee maker to use ground coffee at the studio! Bonus, it is one of my favorite kinds! Then, my friend gave me a belated Christmas gift—coffee (decaf Guatemalan, how rare!). And finally, one of my friends had a bag of Gevalia. It was too bold for her. Within a week or so, I had more coffee than I could drink for this month!

From feast to famine

The other amazing provision happed over a box of GF crackers. I was asked to bring my own gluten-free crackers to a small gathering in a few days. When I went to the cupboard to forage for some to set aside to take, I found a box, but it had only about 5 crackers in it. Since they were only for me, I grabbed a handful of tortilla chips and called it good. The next morning I went to a different event. The host purchased a box of gluten free crackers—so I could have one—for communion. We hadn’t talked about it. I realized that God gave me, through my friend, a whole box of GF crackers for my outing the next evening.

“When we rest from meeting our own needs/wants, it gives someone else a chance to meet them.”

There is a spiritual principle in this—when we always rush to meet our own needs, we keep others—or God—from blessing us. How often do we rush to fulfill our own needs? By slowing down, and using what I have…and even going without for a while, I’ve learned some neat lessons. 

This Rest, I’ve heard of one husband that bought his wife her favorite creamer when she ran out and another who took his wife to purchase new shoes for working out (hers were falling apart). When we wait, we give others a chance to bless us.

News flash—you cannot make this stuff up!! I am sitting here at Starbucks, writing this post when Ursula walks over and gives me a matcha tea with strawberry cold foam. A few minutes earlier the young lady behind me said hers was good and I asked her what it was. Ursula must have heard me ask and decided to bless me with my own (it was her creation, I think). She was leaving and stopped to chat. I told her what I had just written about others providing for our needs/wants when we rest from doing it for ourselves. Little did she know I had been sitting there trying enjoy my black coffee, and not doing the best job of it. We were both delighted—she had no idea how much her kindness would impact both of us.

Resting from, gives!

I hope you are finding your own version of The Rest (or at least finding a little inspiration or humor in mine). And as far as cheating on sweets…

This would be the third time this month that I have had a bit of a sweet treat (a little, because I don’t need much caffeine or sugar). I guess this month there is grace for that. I’ll share the whys of my other two cheats in a later post.

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