Archives for July 2012

Homemade Guacamole!

Summer weather in Southern California usually comes a little later than the rest of the country, so even though it’s early July, we’re still enjoying temps in the low 80’s – perfect for outdoor grilling and picnics in the park!  I love to cook and share good food with friends and loved ones, and one of my favorite foods of all time, as well as one of my favorite things to make for barbeques and picnics, is guacamole.  I can eat tons of it!  As a California native, I love Mexican food, and I think a lot of that love has to do with the fact that Mexican food is the vehicle by which I usually eat guacamole!  A few years ago, I decided to come up with my own recipe for it so I could have it anytime.  So, if you’re a guacamole lover like I am, or even if you’re just looking for a yummy dip to bring to a party, I invite you to try this version, and see what you think 🙂

To make enough guacamole to serve about 8-10, you’ll need the following:

4 ripe avocados
1 large or 2 small to medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/8 red onion or 1 small or 1/2 of a large shallot, finely minced
1 small or 1/2 a large jalapeno, seeded, ribs removed, and finely minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, depending on the size of your avocados (or 1/2 tsp plus 1/8 tsp to 3/4 tsp regular salt)
Juice from 1 to 1 1/2 limes (depending on how juicy your limes are)

  I forgot to include the salt in the above pic, but I figure you get the idea 😉

Also, here’s an idea of the sizes you’re looking for when dicing your veggies – a small dice on the tomatoes and finely minced onion, jalapeno, and cilantro:

To make the guacamole, cut each avocado in half, remove the flesh with a spoon, and add it to a medium mixing bowl.  Mash it with a potato masher or a fork till it’s about halfway mashed (it will mash up a bit more when you mix in the other ingredients).  Add the tomato, onion (or shallot), jalapeno, and cilantro, and stir with a spatula or large spoon to combine.  Add the salt and lime juice and mix well to combine.  Continue mixing till the avocado is mostly mashed, but still has a few small to medium chunks left in tact.

Your finished guacamole should look something like this:

Also, after making guacamole many times over the years, I’ve developed a few tricks to make it easier.  Hopefully, they’ll help you out, too 🙂

First, I HIGHLY recommend wearing gloves while chopping jalapenos.  The oils inside the peppers can stay on your hands and fingers for several hours – even after washing with soap and water.  If you forget and touch your eye, you’ll essentially mace yourself.  Unfortunately, I know this from experience… 🙁

Second, avocados are ripe when they give slightly when pressed on and feel soft, but not super mushy.  If you buy avocados that feel hard to the touch, they’ll usually ripen in a day or two if placed in a paper bag with the top folded down.

Third, an easy way to remove avocado pits is to use your knife.  Slice the avocado down the middle lengthwise, and then twist the two sides to separate them.  Hold the side with the pit in one hand and then carefully, but swiftly, lodge your knife into the pit.

Twist your knife and the pit should release from the avocado.  (If the knife comes out without the pit, you didn’t lodge it in deep enough.)

To remove the pit from the knife, scoop the avocado out of the shell with a spoon, and then use the empty shell to grab onto the pit and pull it off the knife.

 

 

 

And finally, to help your limes release more juice, microwave them on high for about 10 seconds or press down on them while rolling them on your cutting board or counter for a few seconds.

Then, cut them in half width-wise and squeeze them over the guacamole either cut side up or cut side down through a fine mesh strainer to help keep bits of lime pulp from escaping into your recipe.

And, just in case you need them, here are a couple tips for keeping leftovers nice and green:

1) If you need to keep your guacamole green for 3 or 4 hours (like before a party), place plastic wrap over it so that it’s sitting right on top of it.  Then, gently press the plastic wrap onto it so there aren’t any gaps or air bubbles over the top or around the edges before refrigerating it.

2) If you need to store your guacamole overnight or up to several weeks, transfer it to a freezer safe ziptop bag, and freeze it.  Even with air in the bag, freezing will keep your guacamole green indefinitely.  To defrost, double check that the bag is securely closed, and then immerse it in cold water for 20-30 minutes, or till defrosted.  Also, the flatter/thinner your bag of guacamole is, the faster it will defrost.

Enjoy!!

SHAPE Little Hearts

Today we wrap up our series on making the most of time around the table. Scroll down if you missed the posts about how to STORE UP fun family memories and SHARE God’s Word.

Now that we’ve filled these little hearts with the seeds of God’s Word, the next step is to water the seeds we’ve planted and help shape those hearts to be imitators of Christ. Our focus today is on character development and putting hands and feet to the Christian values we teach.

There are many, many ways to do this! Some of the values we would like to instill in our children are the power of prayer, living out the fruits of the Spirit, and doing the work that God has given us with diligence and for His glory. Here are a couple ways to communicate those particular values in your home:

Use Time at the Table to Pray for Others

Pray for missionaries, pastors, teachers, neighbors, classmates, our military, our president, children you sponsor, etc. There is immeasurable worth in teaching your children to see the needs of others and intercede to the Lord on their behalf. Besides being a part of God’s work and seeing His answers to prayer, it naturally fills our hearts with gratitude for all of our blessings.

There are many ways to accomplish this. You can put names on slips of paper and stick them in a small box to keep at the table. Have everyone pick out one name to pray for. My son made one in school like this. (They are available from Oriental Trading Company here.) His teacher filled it with the names of his classmates, then on his own he added the names of friends from church and the neighborhood. He loves it!

Another idea is to take all the Christmas cards you received in December and put them in a shoebox or basket near the dining room table. Pull one out each day to pray for a different family through the whole year. You can also use this cute idea from Jennifer at Dimples & Tangles: Cut out photos from family or friends and paste them on popsicle sticks. Pick out one stick a day and pray for that person.

Another benefit of praying for others together at the table is that it gives everyone in the family opportunities to pray aloud. Throne of Grace offers many great sets of prayer cards that can be used to encourage and motivate family prayer. We keep our personalized set of How to Pray for Your Sponsored Child to remind us to pray for the child we support in Haiti through World Vision. How to Pray for Missionaries, How to Pray for Your Pastor, or How to Pray for Your Teachers could also be used to help direct prayer time together at meals.

Use Time at the Table to Develop Character

It’s no surprise that time together over meals provides time to share about our days and process our responses to them. As parents, we can praise evidences of Christ-like character in our children and teach and train those hearts where it is absent. Focus on a different godly character trait per week or per month. Discuss, read examples from scripture, and share ways those traits have been displayed that day.

You can find a great tool for instilling godly character on the Duggar Family’s website here. They’ve created a calendar with a different character trait defined for each day along with a corresponding Bible verse.

Another way we like to shape the little hearts at our table is to spend time once a week going through the folders that come home from school with the kids’ completed school work. By sharing the work at the table, each child gets a chance to have a little spotlight and receive “public” praise for their diligence and hard work. They enjoy hearing the praise of not only their parents, but siblings as well! (One note I would add here is be sure you don’t use time at the meal time to correct or point out shortcomings in your child’s work. If there are areas of needed improvement, save those discussions for a more private time to avoid shame or embarrassment.)

Well that concludes our series on creative ways to make the most of meal time! We hope you’ve picked up a couple new ideas to bring some fun and faith to the table. Tomorrow one of our fabulous Throne of Grace team members will be sharing a yummy recipe for something else you’ll want to bring to your table…I can’t wait!

 

SHARE God’s Word

I hope our last post inspired some fun around your table this week! At the very least, hopefully we got your creative juices flowing and gave you some encouragement that family meals can be FUN! If you missed our ideas on storing up fun family memories at the table, you can find that post here. It’s not too late to leave us a comment with your family’s fun table games and be entered to win a gift certificate to the Throne of Grace Shop!

Today we are going to tackle the task of using time at the table to SHARE God’s Word. I’ll admit it. This one is a challenge for me! It’s hard to find creative and captivating ways to make the Bible applicable to the lives of little ones! It doesn’t come as naturally as I would like and my husband and I have had a hard time finding curriculum and teaching “aides” geared toward kids 6 and under. The other challenge I’ve faced is that in the early years of my kids’ lives, my husband’s job didn’t allowed him to be home for dinner as much as we would have liked. That put the burden more on me to steer conversation at the table to biblical topics and, as I’ve mentioned before, by the time I get the food to the table, I’m often worn-out!

Thankfully, our Lord is faithful! He cares even more about the seeds of His Word being planted in the hearts of my little ones than I do. As we’ve prayed about this struggle, He has brought several good tools to our attention that I’ll share with you here. I still see this area as a weakness for us and am constantly on the search for new ideas – especially as my children get older – so if you’ve got some good resources, please take the time to leave us a comment with your thoughts so we can all benefit!

Read a Bible Story From an Age-Appropriate Bible

Let’s start with the basics. Bedtime, of course, if often used for Bible story time but why not mealtime? The audience is captive and hopefully a little more energetic than the end of the day. The key is finding a Bible that is engaging for everyone.

My current favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible. I should seriously get some royalties for the number of these I have purchased and given away in the past couple of years! The Bible is condensed and told in story fashion (rather than a word-for-word translation), the illustrations are fabulous, they will appeal to adults as well as children, and, if you buy the Deluxe version for just a few bucks more, you also get the whole book on audio CD. If you’ve got a way to listen to CDs from the table, everyone can eat without needing to read at the same time! What I particularly love about The Jesus Storybook Bible is that every story (Old and New Testaments) points to Jesus and beautifully connects the whole Bible as all part of God’s sovereign plan to send a Rescuer for His people.

For the younger kiddos, The Beginner’s Bible is a classic. Very short, well-illustrated stories (again, not word-for-word) that cover all the major Biblical events. Many preschools and Sunday schools use these Bibles along with a complementary curriculum. These stories are also appropriate for beginning readers to start reading on their own.

For the older kids, my 6-year-old recently received The ESV Seek and Find Bible. This was exciting because it is his first real Bible that contains word-for-word every chapter and verse in the English Standard Version translation of the Bible. He is now learning to look up verses and see the context of stories and relate them to other parts of the Old or New Testament. As far as using this Bible at mealtime, what is unique about it is that while containing the entire Bible, it also has condensed story versions of all the major Bible events. For example, my son can read the entire text of the account of Noah in Genesis 7 and 8, or he can read the summarized version that includes illustrations.

Memorize scripture

Time at the table provides a wonderful opportunity for hiding God’s Word in the little (and big!) hearts in the family. Throne of Grace offers the perfect tools to help with this one! God’s Word for a Child’s Heart and God’s Word for a Teen’s Heart are laminated memory verse cards with scriptures that are specifically chosen to be easy for memorization and applicable to their hearts. My kids each have their own personalized versions that we keep in a small basket in the center of the table along with our Beginner Dinner Games tin, napkins, etc. We quiz each other on verses and then use a dry-erase or wet-erase marker to mark off the cards that have been memorized. They love that part! It doesn’t hurt to offer a little incentive for learning a few verses, either!

Bible Study Take-Home Papers

You may already have some great tools at your disposal that just need to be used! For example, our church provides a Sunday School Take-home page that summarizes the Bible story told that day, the memory verse for the week, and an activity or song to reinforce the main ideas. I also attend a mid-week women’s study through Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) International. They have a wonderful take-home resource that summarizes the week’s lesson, breaks down the week’s study into daily reading passages, and even has a couple questions per day – all designed to be shared with the family. Take inventory of the supplemental resources that you may already have from church, school, Bible studies, Awana groups, etc. and use those to reinforce what the family is currently learning.

Family Devotions

Okay, I saved the biggie for last! This is the one that most intimidates me! It sounds so official and formal, and try as I might, I just can’t reproduce in reality the image I have in my mind. The family sitting around the table…singing hymns and sharing in deep biblical discussions…with the kids leaning in closer SO eager to hear the next word Mom and Dad have to share! Perhaps I need to rethink my expectations?? Other than having a skewed perception of what ought to be, I also have the problem of not having the time to devote to planning these family Bible study sessions. As a result, I have searched and searched for books with ready-made family devotions. By far, the best resource I have found to date is not a book, but a fabulous website! Discover God 4 Kids (www.dg4kids.com) has endless resources for families like mine that need a little hand-holding in this area! Click on the “Family Adventures” tab and you’ll find a 13-week series of family devotions with 5 days of pre-done sessions covering 13 different attributes of God. Each week includes stories, scriptures to read, verses to memorize, games and activities – even word searches and crossword puzzles! Really, there is way more to choose from than you will probably have time for but it gives you flexibility to customize the devotions to your own family’s needs with very little time required for preparation.

So, there you have it! A few suggestions to encourage you and your family in your quest to SHARE God’s Word together. If you’ve got some of your own ideas to spur the rest of us on, please share them by leaving a comment below!