Archive for August, 2009

…this recipe comes along and changes your whole life.  Your whole world.  Your future hopes and dreams.

It’s really, really good.

I was a thrilled mom to have Tori home from college for the weekend and all my family under one roof for dinner.  I would be embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent thinking about what to make for this auspicious occasion.  I even enlisted the help of my facebook community in an effort to create a dinner worthy of my amazing offspring.  In the end, it was Tori who helped me figure it out by reminding me that she eats every meal in a college cafeteria as she tearfully implored, “Please, just no chicken or rice.  Couldn’t we just have a good burger?”  While burgers are certainly not what I would have chosen for an epic culinary experience, my mom-heart was moved by her plea.  So, we had burgers and mushrooms cooked in Marsala (Marsala is a sweet wine that adds such wonderful flavor to mushrooms and…well, lots of things), caramelized onions and provolone cheese.  Yum.

Now, awhile back, for Tori’s graduation party, I had purchased about 50 red burger baskets (like the ones your burger comes in at Red Robin) and I really wanted to use them.  They’re awesome to pile stuff in and they look fun & festive and – best of all – if you line them with a square of foil and a cutie napkin, they don’t even have to be washed after the party is over.  The only downside is, you have to serve stuff that is self-contained.  I had planned on doing some sort of scalloped potato dish with the burgers, but  I knew it would be impossible to eat it from a burger basket.  That’s when I remembered a recipe I had seen on Next Food Network Star a few weeks ago for potato gratin (layered potatoes and cheese) cooked in muffin tins and served in individual portions.  I looked up the recipe and made it – with just a couple of adjustments – in foil baking cups (available in the baking section).

Long story short: they were brilliant.  A masterpiece of potatoes and cream and cheese and onion and bacon and just so delicious that my girls and I were licking the muffin cups we baked them in when we were done.  Here’s the recipe and there’s lots of room here for creativity and personal preferences.  See?  Watching TV really does pay!

5 -Minute Individual Potato Gratins


  • Vegetable spray
  • 2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

I added crumbled bacon to one layer of mine and bread crumbs and a small pat of butter to the top.  I also – based on reviews I read – seasoned ALL the potatoes with salt & pepper before layering rather than just putting salt and pepper on the top and I was very happy with that suggestion.

One note:  the potatoes definitely shrink down into the muffin cups while baking, so be sure to fill them WAY up to the top.  I just finished the last two that were hiding in my fridge from the party and I’m happy all over again.  Such a wonderful, Autumnal, cheap side dish for just about any meal.

Bon Appetit,



The Trouble with a Mini-Me

Posted: August 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

Luke 1:59-60 On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened: “No. He is to be called John.” “But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.” They used sign language to ask Z what he wanted him named. Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise – Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!

This story is so interesting in light of many discussions I’ve had recently with spiritual leaders about the church and the way it relates to the next generation. I think our default understanding of parenting is, “Create another me. A me junior – only better.” On a corporate level, we do exactly that same thing. Because the next generation looks so aimless and strange, it’s easy to equate loving them to Jesus, with loving them to the way that I am. We are trying hard to follow and become like Jesus, so it just makes sense that we would want to lead others to that same place in the same way.

In this story, God doesn’t want to birth a second Zachariah, He wants to birth a first John. And not only is John’s name different…his whole life is different. It’s wild and wooly and totally different than the sedate, quiet, temple lives of his parents. He moves outside the temple….I think he has to in order to get people away from the religious restraints of the day. His words lure them to search for more.

Still, it was Zach and Elizabeth’s obedience that created John and helped prepared him for his future. They were a part of it…but then they had to let go and trust God’s very unique work in their son to take him places that they probably would not have chosen to go.

It’s hard to think that the way God led me and the things He used to break and build my heart, would not necessarily be the same things that He would use for my children. I had a moment in my childhood when the song “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” just hit my heart and – truly – changed my life. It was an encounter with the Holy Spirit that I can’t describe and it still brings me to tears. I am praying for many such encounters for my children, but I know that those meetings with their God will not have my name on them. They will be designed for them by the One who knows who they are and how they tick and – most importantly – where they’re going with their lives. My best gift to them, I think, is to love them relentlessly, teach them the unchanging truth of the Word, and keep directing their attention to Jesus saying, “Isn’t He just incredible?”

Hmm. Big topic for a small day.

Much love,


…and it’s purely coincidental that my birthday is less than a month away. I would never use this blog to air my wish-list to my husband. That wouldn’t be right. It would be taking ill advantage of the bandwidth my little cyberneighborhood is consuming. So, this is a general, generic, random list of what the average 43-year-old mom might want on the day of her birth.

London1) Trip to London! Actually, I already got this gift in 2004, but that has done the exact opposite of keeping me from wanting to go again. I LOVE London. Love, love, love. Big Ben. Double decker buses. People who don’t like Americans. I like it all! Oh, and afternoon tea…I ESPECIALLY adore afternoon tea.

London calendar

2) In lieu of an actual trip to London, I would settle for a London calendar…and then I can see my favorite city all year long (at least that’s what I’ll tell myself.)


3) THIS guy has been on my wish list for awhile. It’s a Le Creuset french oven and it makes spectacular soups and stews and roasted meat. Sounds great, yes? Yes. Except no. Because of the fact that this 7-quart pot made of iron and enamel is over THREE HUNDRED dollars. Even if I have this pot for the rest of my days, that’s just really a lot of cash for soup-cooking. So…take a look at this guy:

Tramontina round dutch oven 6½ quart

4) This is a Tramontina dutch oven (please don’t ask me the difference between a dutch and a french…I’m pretty sure that no matter what anyone else tells you, the difference is primarily CASH). It comes in pretty colors and it’s made of the exact same substance as the Le Creuset – iron and enamel – and yet this pot is available at Walmart for about $60. Now, there are some things I won’t skimp on. Ummm….doctors, medicine, fish (cheap seafood scares me) and makeup. But cast iron and enamel? Give me the cheap! Also, Cook’s magazine gave Tramontina an excellent rating and recommended it instead of the hundreds-of-dollars version.


Okay, for the uninitiated, this is not a Twinkie…but a Twinkie holder. Every true Twinkie afficianado needs one. I think it’s in the International Twinkie Code of Protocol. Therefore, I think I need…oh wait…this is embarassing…I actually already have this. So never mind.


So, this is pretty.

And it’s red.

And it goes fast. Really, really fast.


I’d rather have this:


Help an orphan find a home…or get a college education…or start a business..or make a life.

Maybe I just know really great people, but I can’t think of any 43-year-old woman on the planet who wouldn’t feel exactly the same way.

(But I also want the pretty soup pot!)

Helping Steve help Bo,


It’s Saturday and I’m speaking at Westside this weekend and you know what that means? I definitely should NOT be wasting time hanging out here. But I’m just not one to pass up a good distraction when it presents itself.

One of my favorite new distractions is this web site from Pioneer Woman. It’s filled with delicious and doable recipes. Here’s one I tried a couple of weeks ago and it was so good that I’ve made it multiple times since. I love that you can keep the ingredients on hand and whip up a batch when your kids show up because they don’t have A/C in their cute-but-really-hot house and they just need a place to take a Sunday afternoon nap without sweating into oblivion. These are truly wonderful and they feel a little fancy and a also – dare I say it? – a little like fall. Say what you will about the beauty of summer, I’m getting a little antsy for pumpkin cookies.

peach cups

* 1 container Refrigerated Crescent Rolls
* 5 Tablespoons Sugar, Divided
* 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
* ½ sticks Butter
* 16 slices Fresh Peaches, Peeled
* 8 ounces, weight Mascarpone Cheese OR Whipped Cream Cheese
* Cooking Spray

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon. Separate crescent rolls into the perforated triangles. Dip each triangle into butter, then cinnamon-sugar. Do this on one side only. With the butter-sugar side facing out, place each triangle into a muffin tin, pressing to make a cup.

Combine mascarpone cheese with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar using a fork. Then, place 1 heaping tablespoon into each crescent roll cup.

Peel and slice peaches. Place approximately 2 slices on top of cheese. Lightly sprinkle a bit of sugar on top of each.

Enjoy the recipe and take a look at the site when you’ve got some important things on your list you’d like to avoid doing.

Happy weekend,


The Sidelined Soldier

Posted: August 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

Judges 5:6-7 “…the caravans ceased, travelers walked through byways. The villages were unoccupied and rulers ceased in Israel until you arose – you, Deborah, arose – a mother in Israel.”

Know what the word “unoccupied” means in the Hebrew? Flabby.

The rulers had grown fat and sloppy. The soldiers were lazy and afraid. People couldn’t even walk on the main road. The nation that was chosen as God’s precious possession -those who had been delivered from the hands of the Egyptians and launched straight through the center of the sea – had become hiders.

I think it’s possible to live inside kingdom borders but outside kingdom purpose. It’s possible to know the Bible but never know battle…never confront an enemy…never wrestle with an angel until something happens. Something shifts. We’ve become good in the church at wrestling with philosophy and methodology and each other – but I wonder sometimes if all that activity keeps us safely on the back roads and out of the heat of the real war, where eternal destinies are lost and won.

The word “arose” in the Hebrew means “Stir up, strengthen, arise and abide.” What distinguished Deborah from the people around her? Not geography – they all lived in the same place. Not theology – they all believed in the same God. Not circumstance – they all faced the same bad guy. What distinguished Deborah (and Jael), is they got up. They stopped hiding and faced the fight. They dropped the dead weight of fear and hopelessness and distraction and pursued victory with a vengeance.

When I was little, we used to sing “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered.” When I read this Deborah story – and so many like it in the Bible (Matthew 13:15) – I wonder if maybe God is singing the same thing to us.

With faith for dropping weight,



Posted: August 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

So we just got back from our pilgrimage to the land of corn and family and – with regard to certain precious and unnamed individuals – corny family. I’ve returned home tired from a lot of travel but overwhelmed with gratitude for a weekend that more than anything else, reminds me how blessed I am to have married into this rich and wonderful legacy. I could write a lot of stories, but I decided to mostly let Tess do the storytelling through her lens.028 #2

See the looks of excitement in our eyes as we head off to Sternfest 09? That’s because this is not the return trip where excitement had been replaced by exhaustion which was exacerbated by the fact that a fight totally broke out on our plane and people were kicked off…and it wasn’t us. But only because we were too tired for anything but verbal sparring.153 #2

This is why we came. It’s the family of Paul & Eleanor Stern minus four who had to stay behind in Africa. You know why those kids are in Africa? Because Paul and Eleanor birthed a love for that continent in the hearts of every one of their children. Without Steve’s family, I would still be stuck in the days of praying, “please don’t send me to Africa” and can I just say that nothing good can come from that kind of prayer? So, here you see 45 people who live and breathe kingdom purpose because of the way that two people have lived and loved. Other than these people and many churches and about a million people in Africa (especially 40 children who have a home in the orphanage that they built), Paul and Eleanor haven’t done that much with their lives.

088 #2

Tori and her granddad. A picture that I will treasure til the day I die and in fact, am trying to outsmart the system so I can take it with me to heaven.

138 #2

Lincoln knows that sometimes you just gotta dance.Phil and Linda

What’d I tell you? The dancing cannot be stopped. 14 happily married couples in the Stern family and no divorce. I almost didn’t include that information because I was afraid it would make people in other families feel bad. That’s certainly not my intent. My intent is to boast in God’s faithfulness and one family’s determination to stick out the tough times.Tess camera

The girl behind the camera, finally gets caught in front of one.111 #2

Coffee Stern. One of my favorite family members.084 #2

The amount of musical gifting embedded in this family is mind-boggling to me. It all started with Eleanor and an accordion.

093 #2

Ditto the amount of cute babies (hi Jaden!) But that has nothing to do with Eleanor’s accordion.

157 #2

Two extraordinary couples…just on different phases of their journey. Incidentally, this is another picture I’m going to smuggle into eternity.


“Your name, O Lord, endures forever; Your fame, O Lord, is known to every generation.” Psalm 135:13

A small bit of encouragement: if your family didn’t hand you a memorial like this one, fear not. Abraham built from nothing, so can you. If your family did give you a baton worth running with, then for goodness sake get up and moving. Eternity awaits.

With gratitude,