One of our most commonly-available vegetables when we lived overseas was cabbage. In the States, I almost NEVER use cabbage. So it was an adjustment to learn to put cabbage in everything - stirfry, fried rice, soups, etc. But still my favorite way to use cabbage is by making coleslaw - and this creamy version with a special crunch is the BEST!!!

Special Slaw

1/2 head cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, shredded

1 T.  finely chopped onion

1/2 c. mayonaise

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1 pkg Ramen noodles

Combine cabbage, carrot and onion. In seperate bowl, combine dressing ingredients. Add to vegetables and mix gently.

Crush ramen noodles in package before opening. Toast in skillet (with a tiny bit of oil) until brown and crispy. Sprinkle over coleslaw right before serving for a delicious treat!

Do you have a favorite coleslaw recipe?

This is a dish which we continue to enjoy regularly in the States - in fact, I just made it for supper last night! When we lived in W. Africa, we couldn't get regular potatoes, but we could get sweet potatoes at certain times of the year. Boy did we enjoy them! Baked fries is my favorite way to make them.

 

The Method:

 

Wash & peel your potatoes. Pat dry. Cut into wedges or long fries. Spread on a baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle with olive oil, melted butter, or whatever you have available. Then sprinle generously with seasonings of your choice. Just salt and pepper is enough! But you might also like to try -

garlic powder

onion powder

cumin

paprika

curry powder

chili powder

Last night, I used a light sprinkle of cumin and curry powder and a generous sprinkle of salt and garlic powder. They were delicious!

 

OR for a sweeter snack, sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture after removing from the oven!

 

BAKE at 400F for 30-45 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fries). Serve hot, with ketchup if desired. My whole family loves these.

 

 

A fact about sweet potatoes that you might not know - they are a great starch for diabetics, weight loss programs, or anyone who is trying to avoid the blood-sugar spikes usually caused by sugar & starch. So you can enjoy them with a clear conscience! :-)

My heart is full this morning, and I don't feel like sharing a recipe, I feel like sharing my thoughts. :-) So I'm going to try to do both.

Life is hard. I know that's nothing new to any of you. But good friends of ours have been walking through some really tough things this week, and it makes me want to question "why?". And it makes me think again about the fact that life is just hard. When we lived in Africa, on hard days I dreamed about America. I remembered McDonalds and Walmart and church fellowship and family living close by and all the wonderful things about our old life in America and I missed it. Fast forward to when we moved back to America . . . and suddenly, as I told my husband, the "American Dream" wasn't as wonderful as I remembered. Finances, our job situation, trouble with neighbors, family stresses, and so on made us realize that we didn't have it so bad overseas after all. We started to miss the tropical beauty of our home, the convenience of food sellers coming to our doorstep, the simplicity of a slower way of life.

And then we see our colleagues overseas go through really tough stuff. And we remember that it wasn't all easy, it wasn't all fun. In fact, it was really hard. Today I want to give a shout-out to all of you on the "front lines" working overseas.

  • To those who are focused on language learning, studying for hours every day, struggling to understand, working to learn the culture. What you're doing is hard. You don't always feel like you're making progress. You keep plugging away anyway.
  • To those who are leaders, whether leaders of teams, leaders of organizations, leaders of churches, leaders of your family. What you're doing is hard. There is conflict, different ideas, criticism, lack of appreciation for what you're doing. But it's your job and you keep plugging away anyway.
  • To those who are dealing with sickness, or even worse, your child's sickness. What you're doing is hard. You feel weak - you ARE weak, you don't always have good help or answers, you face separation from family to get medical treatment. You wonder if you'll be able to continue, but for now, you keep plugging away anyway.
  • To those who are in the trenches of tough situations, unexpected challenges, frightening circumstances, things that you can't even talk about or share with people. What you're doing is hard. You feel alone. You feel vulnerable. You feel scared, or guilty, or helpless, or defeated. You keep plugging away anyway.

I don't exclude my friends who are living in the "ease" of America, either. Life is hard. We cannot compare our challenges or struggles with others'.  When I became a mother for the first time, it was really hard for me. I was uptight, I was afraid I was doing the wrong thing, I was struggling to take care of my baby and keep up with my other responsibilities as a wife and homemaker. I cried. I thought there was no way I could have anymore children, because I couldn't even handle one. It was hard. Now I have three beautiful boys - boys who keep me up at night, keep me busy all day long, keep me on my toes, and keep my house messy. And do you know what? It's not hard anymore. Oh yes, there are moments when I've had a sleepless night and the baby is fussy and the other boys are fighting and I should be making supper and the house is a disaster and all I want to do is cry! But mostly, mothering is not what's really HARD right now. There are other things.

When I was just out of my teens, I was in a short, intense romantic relationship. When that ended, I suddenly knew the meaning of a broken heart. And it was hard. I looked at a bleak future and wasn't sure I cared about life anymore. I didn't know how to go on. I didn't know how I could love again. But I kept plugging away, and it got easier . . . and now the memories of that difficult time are dim and distant.

Do I laugh at the girl I used to be? The heartbroken young adult? The struggling young mother? I don't. The struggle was real. The things I was walking through at that time were really, really hard. It doesn't matter that other people were going through "harder" things. It doesn't matter that the things which felt hard then wouldn't feel hard now.

And that's why I am giving this shout-out to all my readers, all over the world. Life is hard. Most of you have a situation in your life right that is stretching you, terrifying you, hurting you, discouraging you. It's okay to admit that it's hard. Because you know what? If life wasn't hard, we wouldn't need God. If we could do this thing on our own, it would be easy to leave Him in Sunday morning and go on our merry way all week long.

As it is, we do need Him. And we need each other. And we need to give ourselves grace. And we need to realize that it's okay if we don't have it all together. Because life is hard.

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And to close, here's my kiddos' absolute favorite veggie: Fried Okra! The most commonly available vegetables when my boys were tiny were greens (like spinach) and okra. We ate lots of both, and they learned to love them. Even now that we live in America, the land of always-available produce, they turn up their nose at wonderful things like fresh green beans and cauliflower, and beg for familiar spinach and okra. I don't have a recipe with exact measurements, but here's how I make it.

 Take fresh okra, cut off the stems, and slice into 1/4" rounds. Dip into a bowl of milk, then into a bowl of flour mixed with salt, pepper, and onion powder if you have it. Drop into about 1" of hot oil and fry without stirring or turning for several minutes. When one side is browned, flip all at once and brown the other side. Serve hot!

Tip #1: This method works best if you work quickly. It seems like the longer the okra is cut, the slimy-er it gets, and that makes everything gum up. If you're doing more than one "batch" in your skillet, don't cut the second batch and leave it sit while the first batch is cooking. Cut, dip, and fry right away.

Tip #2: Only fill the bottom of your skillet with one layer of okra. You want every piece to get nicely browned on both sides.

Tip #3: When you're buying okra, try to buy the smaller, darker green pods. If you can, test them by breaking the tip. It should be a crisp, clean, soft break. If it feels woody, stringy, or is hard to break, the okra is old and not as good.

When we lived in West Africa, we were introduced to a local leaf vegetable similar to spinach. Our people actually cooked with several different kinds of greens, some of which were sour, some slimey, and mostly a bit difficult for our Western taste buds. :-) But one plant was quite delicious, perhaps even a milder taste than spinach. It was by far the cheapest and most easily available vegetable in our location, so I learned how to use it regularly! Greens are so good for you, too.

The preparation time for vegetables, especially greens, can be significant. So this is a task I turned over to our house-help. She would go to market (or to a friend nearby) and bring back a huge bag of greens. Then she would spend the entire morning washing and chopping. We found that washing the leaves three times worked best for avoiding bits of sand in our food. :-) Once she had huge bowls piled with chopped greens, we began the process of blanching them all. Using a steamer, we cooked the greens in batches just for about 3 minutes, until the leaves were wilted down. Then we cooled them down, packaged in 1 cup baggies, and put them in the freezer. A morning's work would yeild about 30 packages of greens in the freezer!

I used these greens just like frozen spinach in the States. Since they were chopped small, I found that I could put a small amount in almost any dish and my kids would eat it. Actually, because I started puting spinach in things when they were just babies, both of my boys grew up loving it! When we came back to the States and didn't have anything with spinach in it for several weeks, my 3 year old started asking for it. :-) Here's a quick list (not exhaustive) of the dishes I would add greens to . . . 

regular pizza

chicken alfredo pizza

spaghetti or lasagna

chicken gravy over biscuits

macaroni and cheese

curry (this I would make with greens as the main vegetable. I'll share the recipe later!)

fried rice

scrambled eggs/omlets

peanut butter soup (a local recipe)

And of course, you can also cook them with a little butter and salt as a side dish for all kinds of chicken or fish dishes!

Lastly, a recipe from our local food, made with lots of greens. This was a big favorite of my husband's, and I made it almost weekly!

Creamy Greens Stew

1 chopped onion

1/2 c. oil

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 c. water

4 c. fresh greens

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 c. pounded nuts or seeds (you can use natural peanut butter or almond butter here in the States)

salt & red pepper to taste

Saute onion in oil, then add tomato for a few minutes. Add water, fresh greens and garlic. Cook until greens are soft. Then add nut paste, salt and red pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve over steamed rice. Serves 4.