Cocoa Challenge: In Search of a Perfect Cuppa

 

I have grown accustomed to hot chocolate which is at best “hot chocolate” flavoured – a powdered-mix, semi-cocoa beverage; and at worst a brown, overly sugared drink which had once, perhaps, passed in the vicinity of a cocoa bean.

Over the years I have tried to find a reliable Cocoa fix, and the search has left me with these reflections. I will begin with cheap(ish) and readily available and proceed towards chocolaty fulfillment.

McDonald’s

The McDonald’s McCafe range provides relatively inexpensive, easily found source of hot chocolate (Let’s face it when the first astronauts arrive on Mars they will be greeted with “Would you like fries with that?”). Ease of access is not always a benefit, however. McDonald’s hot chocolate has all of the hallmarks of a pre-fab, machine produced product.  Of course that is exactly what it is.  The problem however, apart from it only being a half step beyond the worst case scenario of my introduction, is inconsistency. How can a pre-measured, machine brewed drink vary so much between outlets, or even at the same outlet on different days? My experience has ranged from a true cocoa uplift to something akin to brown dish water.  Yes, hot and at least semisweet, but far from the goal of “Cocoa Perfection.”

Starbucks

Nearly as ubiquitous as McDonald’s is the American coffee chain, Starbucks.  The hot chocolate here is hand measured from a pre-made powder.  The pluses are that it consistently tastes of chocolate, and that it can be enhanced by the addition (at an extra charge) of marshmallows, and whipped cream.   This is an easily accessed option, and still not perfection, it is a reliable treat.

Starbucks will also provide non-dairy and “skinny” options which extends the appeal to some.  I found that the coconut milk used as an alternative is a bit fruity in its flavour (sweetened with apple or grape?) which competes with the cocoa.

Costa

Costa Coffee is a British chain, and if I am honest (though I prefer their coffee) there is not much light showing between their hot chocolate and Starbucks’. It like its rival’s is make from powder by the barista and has the options of cream, marshmallows (and in Costa, Cadbury Flake).

Where Costa moves ahead is the choice of non-dairy alternatives.  The Costa coconut milk has a similarly sweet, but less pronounced flavour thereby enriching the chocolate and not competing with it.

Giraffe World Kitchen

Giraffe is another UK based chain.  It is a restaurant rather than cafe style eatery, and focuses on a theme of world-foods. The hot chocolate is again very similar to Costa and Starbucks.  It is smooth, sweet, and has a true cocoa taste, but it is still (and identifiably so) a chain product.

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Thorntons

We move into the next tier with Thornton’s Chocolate.  Thornton’s have been  chocolatiers for about 100 years. They produce mid-market sweets, and have shops and cafes dotted across the UK. Their hot chocolate is their own blend, and is slightly on the sweet side of centre.  The cocoa content seems (by taste) good, and the typical enhancements of whipped cream and even flavored syrups are available. This is a nice cuppa, but still not the do all and be all.

Butlers

Butler’s is a whole different story. This Irish chocolatier has a small chain of “Chocolate Cafes” in Ireland. The hot chocolate was smooth and bursting with flavour. It is made from a liquid cocoa mixture rather than a powder, and is like drinking a creamy chocolate bar. It has spoiled me to other chain cocoa forever I think. It is rich, truly cocoa and nears the threshold of a “perfect cuppa.”

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Butler’s Dublin

Lime Kiln Kitchen
Closer to home (for me), and outside of specialty chocolatiers is the Lime Kiln Kitchen at the Thetford Garden Centre in Norfolk.  While not as scrumptious as Butlers, it is more accessible, and it has its place on my survey owing to its “sugar-free” cuppa. This is a lovely full flavoured hot chocolate which is made by actually melting a good quality sugar-free bar to make the drink.  It is a little more dear, but worth the price and the experience.
Delphine’s Diner 
Delphine’s Diner in Aldeburgh, Suffolk is in the American style of the 1950s-60s. The cocoa here is served in a good sized mug, and is freshly made with melted Belgian chocolate, and fresh cream. This was a very satisfying drink, and was a step above virtually all the chains (bar Butlers).  It was smooth, not sickly sweet, and had a true chocolate flavour. The downside of course, like Thetford Garden Centre, is its single location.
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Passing of a phenomenon:  The Funky Mackerel Cafe
There it was at the end of the rainbow, the perfect cup of chocolate excess. The Funky Mackerel Cafe on the cliffs overlooking the sea at Sheringham, Norfolk had managed to make that illusive perfect cuppa.  And then it was gone.
The drink was exceptional. The hot chocolate with cream, marshmallow, flake and curly-wurly was worth the journey all on its own.  This rich, sweet indulgent mega treat was IT. But the Funky Mackerel has now announced its closure after Easter. This was a truly exceptional concoction, and it will be a shame for it to pass.

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With that said, I guess my search must continue. Well we all have to make sacrifices.

Padre

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Love Hurts

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 – NIV).”

Today much of the Christian world will mark “Good Friday,” as the culmination of the events of the “Holy Week,” in what is the ultimate “darkest before the dawn” scenario.

Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem to a triumphal welcome only five days earlier.  There were those present who were welcoming Messiah, others an expectant king, others a military leader who would break the chains of Rome, and yet others still to see a great teacher and healer.  What they got was a man, mounted on a humble donkey, who once He had arrived, disappears into the multitude.  After the hype, there was “nothing to see here.”

He then, over the next few days, aggravated or alienated merchants, money-changers, lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, and priests.  By Thursday, He settled into the last meal with only a handful of followers, and one of these was destined to betray Him, and yet another to deny Him.

The garden torments of Gethsemane, and arrest, a sham trial, and beatings were to follow, until He came to face Pilate.  He was scourged, mocked, beaten, and ultimately crucified.  His followers had fled, He died in the presence of His mother, a few of the women, and only the “beloved disciple” at His side.

Crucified, died, and buried = Game Over.  No! It was merely an interlude.  The plan established at creation had come to pass.  The prophecies had been fulfilled.  The “Good” of Good Friday had been accomplished, as sin was washed in His blood.  In the words of the Seventeenth Century theologian, John Owen, it was “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”

The death of death!  That is good news, on this Good Friday.

Padre

AND THE GOOD NEWS CONTINUES ON SUNDAY!

 

Apple Slaw

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This is a nice salad recipe that is “portable” for picnics and “pot lucks” as it contains no mayonnaise so wont readily “go off.” It has many of the usual slaw ingredients, but is a little sweet and fresh in its taste.

Ingredients:

  • Cabbage small head (3 or 4 cups of a larger cabbage)
  • Apple 1
  • Carrot 1 large
  • Onion 1/4 of a medium
  • Vinegar 1/4 cup (cider or distilled)
  • Sunflower Oil or Light Olive Oil 1 Tbs
  • Stevia 2 – 3 Tbs
  • Celery Seed 1/4 tsp

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Method:

In a measuring cup (or similar) mix oil, vinegar, sweetener, and seeds. Then shred the cabbage, carrot, and onion and place in a large bowl.  Then core and thinly slice the apple into rings, then quarter each of these.  Add apple slices to the bowl, and pour the liquid mixture over the fruit and veg.  Mix well and cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Serve as a side salad, or as a sandwich condiment.

Padre

“Take, Eat”

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Today, Christians around the world will remember Jesus’ “Last Supper.” Whether it be through a special Maundy Thursday service, or merely through their individual thoughts on the passion week, it is a time to reflect.

Paul offers us these words,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body,which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26).”

The bread of the communion service or Eucharist is a central focus of Christian belief and worship.  It unites all Christians in “communion” with God and each other. This simple act of breaking and sharing bread links us as believers to one another, to Jesus as our Lord, and even to Christianity’s Hebrew roots.

Jesus took the bread, and in the Jewish fashion blessed it and gave thanks, perhaps with the words: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, hamotzi lehem min ha’aretz. He then broke it and told the disciples that it represented His body which was to be broken, and to eat it in remembrance of Him. The bread (seen to be linked to Passover) would have been unleavened for the festival.  It was baked un-risen to remember and mark the fact of the Jew’s hurried departure from bondage in Egypt.  It was a symbol of emancipation – they were now free.

Jesus in His words to the disciples transforms the symbol.  No longer will the bread merely be for physical nourishment, nor was it to be a Passover loaf linked to temporal freedom.  He said, that believers would be partaking of Him, and His sacrifice.  He would be our new “Bread of Life.”  We are indeed to be free, a freedom from death and sin. True freedom! This new loaf, in Jesus’ broken body, is unlike the Passover bread. It did not remain “un-risen!” Hallelujah.

Padre

 

Healthy Reflections

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Balance

It’s thoughtful Thursday, and today I shift gears from my norm.

I was reading the Beauty Beyond Bones blog recently in which Caralyn was making an excellent comment on the present obsession in much of the West with “Skinniness.” She made a really wonderful point on The Cheesecake Factory’s “Skinnylicious” menu.  No they don’t prompt you to make a healthy choice, a reduced calorie choice, or a less indulgent choice. They promote skinniness.

Caralyn makes it no secret in her posts about her battle with anorexia.  Her concerns at the “Skinny Agenda” are as understandable, as they intrinsically correct. I come from another perspective, as one who reached a peak of nearly 430 pounds, before reducing to 380 and still having a heart attack.  I have since continued to reduce, but I have no desire to be “skinny.”  Healthy needs to be our watchword.

What then is healthy?

While there is a scripture which proclaims, “For bodily exercise profiteth little . . . (1 Timothy 4: 8 KJV).” It is rendered more completely and in clearer modern English, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (NIV).” Note it does not say that exercise is worthless, just that it is of limited or temporal value. It goes on to state that godliness (virtue and a holy character) has temporal and everlasting value.

We can see then that exercise, and by application eating a healthy diet, is positive.  But here we do not see a call for excess.  No excess in gluttony, nor an excess in “dieting,” but moderation.  We can enjoy good meals (these too are blessings from God). We can enjoy the gym, or a daily run. But, we are not to “live for” either.

While I am not a fan of “proof texts,” I still must accept that even single passages can offer us some truths.  With that said, let us look at 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

The application is that we have a call, if not a duty to take care of our health.  We can do this in sensible eating, avoiding substances which damage us, and in having some measure of activity.

But this health is also spiritual.  We are to also have a healthy diet of that which nourishes our soul as well.  Do we spend time in the Word of God? Do we spend time in godly conversation?  These will feed our inner selves.  It leads to the “godliness that has value for all things . . . .”

So what is the message?  We need to have balance in our lives.  We need to make sure we are feeding our souls.  We need to take care of our physical being as well, as it it this body that enables us to serve Him.  We need to avoid fad, fashion, and “marketing.”  We need to seek a value system which makes us whole.  We need to resist the dual challenge of modern life to “buy more, eat, more, enjoy more,” and “be thin and avoid ‘fat shame’.”  These are both deceptions.

In the same way the other duality of our age “There is no God,” and “Your religion is only personal.” We live in a time when atheism and skepticism are argued to be the norm, and at the same time “any belief goes.” We in our healthy spiritual diet should come too see these as deceptions as well.

Let us seek health today. It not a matter of image, or misapplied consumerism. It is about an abundant balanced life.

Padre

Commandments: Quotes and Reflections

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Commandments: commands, demands, imperatives, rules, or orders.  While the Hebrew Torah contains 613 commands, the tablets given to Moses contained ten.  These rules set literally in stone were to be the basis of the laws and social order of the nation of “chosen people.”

“If God would have wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments.” Zig Ziglar  These same rules have set the basis of the Jewish faith, and have left an indelible mark on Christian belief and  practice as well.  Jesus did indeed sum up the teachings of the scriptures in a short two point model, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’  (Matthew 22:37-39).” It is on the first of these (covered by Commandments 1-4 of the Tablets of Moses which I will focus on today.

The First Commandment recorded in Exodus chapter 20 reads, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me (verses 2-3).” God’s call here is clear.  He wants and expects an exclusive relationship with His people. Martin Luther (1483-1546) commented on the command’s purpose,  “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.” God, therefore, wants our focus and hearts to be with him.

The Second Commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20: 4-5),” was reflected on by Thomas Watson (1620-1686), “In the first commandment worshiping a false god is forbidden; in this, worshiping the true God in a false manner [is forbidden].” The true worship of God is to be spiritual (as He is), bowing down to images, or sub-par replacements is onerous to Him.

The Third Command reads, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” We live in an age where you can hear seven-year-olds on the street uttering “OMG.” Yet, this flippant disregard to God’s dignity is prohibited by the Creator.  I have a great respect for the Jewish practices of avoiding the use, much less misuse of His name.  He is often addressed as “Ha Shem” (The Name), and even when the English word in which we entitle Him is used, it is often rendered as “G-d.” [See my post on Moses’ name and the relation with YHWH].   Psalm 139:20-21 even goes so far as to equate those who misuse God’s name with murderers and God’s enemies.  Yet in our society, “Swearing and praying are the two most common ways to use God’s name (Ray Fowler).” What a sad reflection.

The Fourth Commandment,  “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God (Exodus 20: 8-10),” rounds out our commands relating to our relationship with God.  It really is straight forward.  He rested, He calls us to rest to refresh and to then go on.  

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The effort to honour this was evident in my hotel in Jerusalem.  The “kosher lifts” or “Sabbath Elevators”  made it so no one would cause a spark to be made by pushing the electric button of Sabbath.  While some Christians have commented that the rabbinical interpretations of the 4th Commandment exceed the intention, it is nonetheless noteworthy in its attempt to uphold God’s edicts.

What is more practically impressive in this age of open 24-7-365 is the sign I saw on a shop door in Tennessee next to its Sunday: Closed notification.  It read, The day is worth more than the dollar.”  What a wonderful application of god’s principles!

I hope that we all can take some time to reflect on the message of the “Love the Lord your God” commandments.  I pray that we seek to practice them, and show our appreciation of Him who gave them.

I hope to post on the “Love your neighbour” commands in the future.

Padre

Ginger Orange Tonic

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As a teacher, preacher, and public speaker there is one major “occupational hazard:” voice strain.  If I have a mild cold, or if the air is a bit dry it becomes even more of an issue.  What no speaker or teacher needs is to totally lose their voice.  As such, I have sometimes resorted to a warm (not hot) tonic drink that soothes the throat, and that is tasty as well.

Ginger orange tonic blends citrus and spices to make a, at first tingly, but then, soothing drink.   It might not be much to look at, but it does the job. As always with any health related post, I must note I am neither a scientist or medical professional, but rather that this recipe works for me.

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Ingredients:

  • Orange 1
  • Lemon Juice 1 Tbs (fresh or bottled)
  • Honey 1 Tbs
  • Ginger 2 inches of fresh root
  • Ground Cinnamon 1/4 tsp
  • Water 250-300 ml

Method:

Peel the ginger root and finely sliver. Place in a small saucepan along with the water and bring to near boil, then reduce heat. Juice the orange and add the juice and any loose pulp into the pan. Add the lemon and honey, and then the cinnamon. Stir until cinnamon is fully dissolved.  Then strain through a tea strainer or similar mesh, and serve warm in a mug.

Padre

Visiting Sunny Hunny

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Sunset over the Wash

Living in East Anglia, it is relatively easy for us to visit the seaside.  One of our favourite day trips is to Hunstanton on the North Norfolk coast on the Wash.  Hunny has a fairly easy access to the beach, and their is a good sized promenade, and all of the usual “seaside” attractions such as penny arcades, ice cream shops, and chippies.

The best sandy beach section is on the east of the town in “Old Hunstanton.”  In the spring and summer months it is very busy, but we still had room to lay out a blanket and enjoy the sunshine. We parked at the Lighthouse Car Park (£3.50 for 3 hours) and took the short walk down to the beach below the low point of the cliffs. There are a few grassy dunes, but it is mostly sand, and there was a good atmosphere, though with loads of children and dogs it couldn’t exactly be called peaceful. It was nice just to set in the sun and watch life and the sea go by. Note there is no life guard in this section of beach, but there does seem to be beach patrols by the Coast Guards. Toilets and cafe are back up at the car park, and the walk is a little steep down to the beach, but still doable even with limited mobility. There was at least one wheel chair, and several babies’ pushchairs on the beach if that gives a feel for its accessibility.

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Old Hunstanton beach

The beach area near the sailing club is little to the west of light house.  This area also has pay and display parking, and there is a seawall to negotiate to get to a cobbled beach portion.  Many people seem to use this area for wind surfing, and other similar activities.

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Beach Beneath the Cliffs

Further to the west still (near the town centre) is the main promenade.  There is beach beneath it as well, and this area also has easy access to several arcades, and snack venues.

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Beach and Promenade

Above the beach front there are cliffs to the east, and the town westward.  The cliff areas give good views of the Wash, and as it is on-road parking there are no parking fees.  This grassy expanse is used by hikers and dog walkers and there are several benches and pavilions to rest, and just watch the sea.

The town above the promenade has a lot to offer.  There is a quality fish shop, the aforementioned arcades, and some nice sweets and ice cream venues.

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Fishers Fish and Chips

We have eaten at/from Fishers of several occasions on our visits to Hunstanton. These  have been take away meals from the “chippy” side of the house, and from the “dine in” restaurant.

The dining room is rather spacious and goes much deeper of the street than one might first imagine. The tables are somewhat close together, but no claustrophobically so. The decor is simple, but really sets a flavour. The large mirrors with the shop logo, and fish and chip references are well in keeping with a seafood restaurant atmosphere.

The service was attentive and very professional. Orders and drinks were very quickly done, though food service was a little delayed, but not enough to downgrade the restaurant for service.

The food was well presented, tasty, and massive in portion. My wife had haddock and chips, and I had a jacket potato. This proved too much for us. I had 1/3rd of her fish and her mushy peas, and my potato with baked beans, and was totally full. She had her 2/3rd portion of fish, and 1/2 her chips, and we still left loads of chips behind.

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Candy ‘N’ Cream sweet and ice cream shop is convenient to the car park by the information centre, and is next door to Fisher’s fish shop. We have had good experiences with the Pavilion Ice Cream Parlour (also in Hunny), but found parking closer to Candy ‘N’ Cream, so gave it a try. I am glad we did.

The shop is a traditional sweets shop with loads of variety, but they also serve some really good quality take-away ice cream. The shop lacks the fancy options of its neighbour down the hill, but the ice cream itself is in my opinion better. We had a nice strawberry which was very fruity, a banoffee scoop which was really well balanced and not sickly sweet, and a rich caramel/toffee scoop.

This bright pink building looks like a sweetie itself, and the entire “kid in a candy shop” experience is there. It is not a sit down for a sundae venue, so it all down to what you are after.

For true foodies there is also a very high quality deli up the hill from Fishers and Candy ‘N’ Cream. The Norfolk Deli a treasure trove of treats. There was a wonderful selection of gluten free and local goods, and the cooked meats and cheeses were top quality. We got some pastrami that was a good as any found in New York delis. There was also an assortment of olives and on every shelf there was a yummy surprise to be found. The service was friendly, and it was a really great experience to add to a beach visit.

Slightly to the west again, there is a Sea Life Centre and a public swimming pool.  Again note, that all the parking in the main car parks is pay and display.

As the journey across town takes you closer to King’s Lynn end, you will find Big G’s.  This venue has a wonderful concept for a seaside restaurant. It is not alone in the world of pizzerias in offering an all you can eat buffet, but in decor, location, and customer service it really works as an alternative to the fish and chips and ice cream of many a beach visit.

Decor: The dining area is arranged with pastel coloured picnic table-style seating, with beach chalet type enclosures in what might traditionally been booth seating. Decoration is of the style found in beach side souvenir shops with the beach visit theme tied wonderfully together.

Location: Set on the landward side of the South Prom car park it is easily accessible, and convenient to both beach and town.

Service: My step-daughter and I received a friendly welcome, and were given clear guidance on the way the buffet worked, and we were checked on periodically to make sure it was continuing to be a good experience for us. We were even asked if there was any particular ingredients we wanted on the next pizza to be put onto the buffet. Wow, a personalised buffet offering.

The food was good, and with a salad, pasta, and pizza spread well in keeping with the pizza joint buffet genre. That said, the salad bar was limited with the iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced bell pepper, cucumber and beetroot standards. It made up for this by having homemade coleslaw and potato salad. The coleslaw was course chopped, and had purple cabbage making for a nice change from the thin shred mass produced stuff of a Pizza Hut. The real difference from the chain pizza places was the pies themselves. These are hand thrown, thin (Tuscan-style) based pizzas with a crisp texture. The toppings were tasty, and the cheese portions generous especially on the garlic and cheese “garlic bread” pizza. The pasta was fairly average, and the cheese sauce very thick but lacking a bit of “umph.” That said the pasta is way overcompensated for with the pizza and coleslaw.

The value for money is very good, and with Pepsi brand drinks on all you can drink tap, a bargain for a beach outing.

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Hunstanton is one of the only places on the east coast of the UK where you can watch the sunset into the sea. It is an anomaly of the geography that the Wash provides a westward view over the ocean.  It is a great way to end a day at the seaside.  Hunny is a great place to relax, enjoy, and explore.

Padre

 

Four Pepper Soup

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This is a lovely vegetable soup which blends the flavours of the peppers and tomatoes to make a rich warmer or lunch option.  It takes a little advanced prep, but is well worth it for the difference it makes in the final product.

After several weeks of creamier (coconut and yoghurt) recipes, this one relies on only a tablespoon of cream or yoghurt to take the edge of the bite of the tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • Tinned Chopped Tomatoes 400 g
  • Red Pepper 2
  • Yellow Pepper 1
  • Mild Chili Pepper 1
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Vegetable Stock Cubes 2
  • Water 1 litre
  • Olive Oil 2 tsp
  • Yoghurt or Cream 1 Tbs

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 C/ 395 F. Cut off the top of one red pepper and remove the seeds. Then spread oil evenly over the inside cavity and outside walls of the pepper. Remove skin from the garlic and drop into the pepper.  Place pepper in a oven dish and roast uncovered for 30 minutes.  Dice the three remaining peppers and add along with any remaining oil into a large pan or soup maker. Heat briefly then add the tinned tomatoes, stock cubes, and roasted pepper.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to low boil for 45 minutes.  Blitz well and add cream or yoghurt.  Blend again until completely liquefied.

Padre

The Prodigal Father

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Image source: infograph.venngage.com

Pastor Brett Crosson brought a powerful message on our loving Father this week.  He drew his text from Luke 15, the three Lost parables. He noted that the lost sheep was indicative of that which is lost by nature.  The lost coin that which is lost by circumstance, and the lost son as one who strayed by choice.  In each case a loving God labours to have relationship restored.  The Shepherd leaves the 99 for the sake of the one.  The householder sweeps for recovery.  And the Father, so much more.

Brother Brett noted that from the beginning of the son parable, the father (clearly representing the Father) is noted as loving, and giving. The pastor rightly noted that the tale, often called “The Prodigal Son” has an dual application.  Prodigal can in the negative mean that which is wasteful (as the son clearly was), but it can also mean “having or giving something on a lavish scale.”  The father in the parable is manifestly that!  The prodigality of the father is everywhere in the story.

Verse 12 gives us our first example.  The younger son goes to his father and asks for his portion of the inheritance.  This was unheard of, and was culturally an insult.  It insinuation is that he literally couldn’t wait for his father to die. How does his father respond? No, not with a rebuke or physical punishment, or even disinheritance, but with granting the request!  Brett made a really sound point that Jesus’ Hebrew auditors would have been waiting for anything but this.  Here is a man who puts insolence, and insult aside to give he son his request.  More than generosity, this is love.

When the son is away he squanders his wealth, and is left at rock bottom.  He is starving, and muses about home, and “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger (verse 17)!” These hired servants were day labourers, and had no true expectation of anything beyond their agreed wage, but here his father’s prodigal generosity shines again.  They have more than enough.

The son makes his mid up to go beg for a hired position.  This is not repentance, but rather desperation.  As he approaches home, his father sees him.  This father who has given his lot to the son, who has then deserted him has never given up on the boy.

“But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him (verse 20).”  Brother Brett noted to us several other expressions of the father’s love in this single verse.  The father runs to his son.  What is overlooked in our 21st Century worldview is that such an act was beneath the dignity of an elder in Israel.  So why did he do it?  Yes, because he was excited to see his lost offspring returning, but there is more. He was getting to the son before anyone else could that might seek to humiliate him for his folly.  What love is that?

The he kisses his son, more than a peck, “he falls upon his neck . . . .”  He is showing live before the sons confession of verse 21.  And once the son begins his speech (prepared in verses 18 and 19) the father calls servants to attend to the son.

Much has been made in the past about the fatted calf prepared to celebrate his return. Yes, this is gracious.  But little comment is made abut what precedes that.  “‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet (vs 22).”

The best robe was the of dignity, a garment worn by the father in meetings of the elders, or at worship.  Here he is clothing his lost (but now returned) child with his own dignity and honour. This is the giving of the best.  And then the signet ring the mark of the fathers own authority. This is a son forgiven, a son restored, a son loved.  As are we!

Our Father in heaven is a Prodigal Father.  No matter “how far a country” we have wandered to, or how wasteful of His love we have been, He will welcome us back.  He will bestow blessings upon us.  God is good.

Padre

Thank you Brother Brett for sharing this powerful word.