Coco-Cocoa (Lower Sugar)

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Here is a night-time warm drink which has become part of our evening bed-time ritual. It is a dairy-free, no added sugar, cocoa drink which has a hint of coconut. While not quite the flavour of a Bounty bar (UK) or Mounds (US), it does give a wink to this taste and is a nice variant on the “hot chocolate” theme.


  • Coconut Milk Drink 450 ml
  • Pure Cocoa Powder 2 rounded tsp
  • Stevia 2 rounded tsp
  • Ground Cinnamon 1/4 tsp
  • Vanilla Essence 1/4 tsp


Pour coconut milk into a saucepan and begin to warm over medium to medium high heat. Pour in the sweetener and stir, and then sprinkle in the cinnamon and vanilla. Then shake in the cocoa powder, stirring the liquid to limit the clumping. One ingredients are in, continue to stir regularly until all the dry items are fully dissolved.  You may need to small clumps of cocoa between the bottom of the spoon and the side of the pan to aid the dissolving.  Heat until it begins to steam, but do not allow to boil (5 – 7 minutes).  Serve in a mug.




Parsnip Chili Soup

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Here is another simple soup recipe. Like my previous soup postings it is a mainly single vegetable base, with some additional flavours and a coconut milk creaminess.  It can however be done with real single cream or yoghurt (in the same 300 g measures) instead of the coconut.

I recommend medium sized parsnips.  Small ones don’t give much bulk to the soup, and overly large one even when chopped small feel a little woody/gritty unless good longer.  So for a “do it in an hour meal,” the “middle way” wins.

A slight variation on this, and a slightly richer flavour, can be achieved by replacing one parsnip with a large carrot.

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  • Parsnips 4-5 depending on size
  • Mild Chili Pepper 1/2
  • Veggie Stock Cube 1
  • Sweet Chili Sauce 1 Tbs (or more to taste)
  • Coconut Milk 400 g or Yoghurt 300 g
  • Water 1.5 litres


Skin and chop parsnips and place in a large pan or soup maker. Deseed and chop the pepper and add to pot. Add the water and bring to a low boil for 1/4 hour. Add the stock cube and cook at a low boil for an additional 20 minutes the reduce to simmer and add the milk (yoghurt) and chili sauce. Cool for 10 more minutes then blitz into an evenly textured soup. Garnish with rings of chili.



The Battle For the Mind


Pastor Vince brought a terrific message this week as part of a series leading to Easter.  The theme of resurrection, and of new life, this week found its focus on the “renewing of our minds (Ephesians 4:23).”

As Christ has risen to a new life, so too are we to be lifted again.  This in the body, but also in the spirit, and in the mind.  But all too often we despair.  We make assumptions that our lives, struggles, and trials are somehow fixed.  We see that our old nature is “who we are,” and as such have no real expectation of things ever being different.  This is clearly a case of “stinking thinking,” and it is self-limiting. Proverbs 23:7 makes this clear, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . .”

The pastor noted, however, that this is not the case. Ephesians 4: 8 proclaims, “Wherefore he saith, When he [Christ] ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” God, in Jesus’ resurrection overcame death.  He led us away from the captivity of Hell, but also from the captivity of our own self-limiting.

Satan (whose name indicates that he is one who opposes and obstructs) wants us to be self-limited.  He wants us to believe (remember Psalm 23:7) that we are bound to sin, bound to fail, bound to suffer. He is a deceiver, we saw this in Eden. His lies are just that, lies.  The power that raised Jesus from the tomb, now raises us. The devil has no power. It is the Gospel, and the power of the resurrected Jesus which (as in Matthew 16:18) the “gates of hell” will not be able to withstand.  Note here in our battle for the mind, that Satan (and hell’s gates) cannot prevail (and gates are a defensive weapon).  The real power is on our side. Let that thought help “renew your mind.”

Any suffering we experience is temporary.  Jesus was three days dead, but ROSE! We too shall be lifted up.  And these temporary trails are just that, temporary.  God is sovereign. Even in the case of Job, Satan could not do anything without permission.  The devil is not the master of circumstances.

So in this battle for the mind, we need to be steadfast.  Yes we mess up, yes we daydream instead of focus, yes we even backslide.  But this does not mean we are “unchanged” by the resurrection. Our changing of our mindset, is like the rest of our change in Christ. To repent means to “turn around” to go another way.  Our minds can do likewise. Romans 8:11 tells us, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” To our mortal bodies and our minds.  The battle is to “love the Lord our God, with all our mind, heart, and strength” – our whole renewed being.

Too much of our 21st Century world view is linked to scientific determinism.  If A , then B.  All things are predictable, all things are set by laws of nature and physics. But the resurrection of the son of the Nain widow, of the daughter of Jarius, of Lazarus, and of Christ Himself, show us otherwise.  We need not say like Lazarus’ sister, “its too late, now he [I] smells.” But rather, like Lazarus we are to “come forth.”

Let us not succumb to the assaults of our own “old voice,” but “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”


Mary Magdalene: Reactions in Pre-View

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Friday will see the UK release of the feature film Mary Magdalene. As is often the case, these “God Slot” films find their way to the cinema at Christmas and Easter.  Okay, fair enough, especially with the limited general interest in things divine outside of these seasons.

I am here writing as “pre-view” rather than a review of the film, and it is based (fairly or unfairly) on the trailer, and on media reviews of those who have seen it before its official release.

So why comment now?  Firstly, I was preparing to post a blog on Mary M. as part of my “Bible Ladies” series, and have now put it off as I didn’t want to seem as if I was “jumping on a band-wagon.” Secondly, with many people potentially preparing to watch the film, I felt I should make some comment on what to expect.

So, from what I have seen, this is a feminist revisionist view of the biblical story.  The “heroine” Mary is rightly depicted as a devout disciple of Jesus.  The “politically correct” (but biblically suspect) approach, however, shows her not as a woman cleaned of madness or of a demon, but as a strong minded proto-feminist, who is resisting the patriarchal establishment of First Century Judaism, and the misogyny of even her fellow disciples.

Again, I must stress that I have only read reviews and seen the trailer. There seems to be a suggestion (or more) that Mary is numbered among the apostles. Here, if it is the case, I must theologically clear my throat. Mary was not counted among the twelve. This is not to diminish her, but let’s only give credit where credit is due. “Apostle” – no. “Evangelist” – yes.  If we hold to the definition of an evangelist as “one who proclaims the gospel,” then she was an evangelist.

Not only was she an evangelist, but technically, she was the first evangelist. One simple definition of the Gospel (Good News) is The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  If we hold this as our definition, it is Mary of Magdala who was the first professor of the Gospel.  Not Peter, Paul, or even the beloved John.

This godly woman, has been painted in the past as a prostitute (Jesus Christ Superstar 1971; Risen 2016), as a mistress of Jesus (The Last Temptation of Christ 1988; The Da Vinci Code 2003 & 2009), and/or minimalised as a hanger on (Jesus of Nazereth 1977 “I am a member of the family”). While none of these portrayals do her justice (biblically), this latest movie in the “Magdalene” genre, may go too far in the other direction.

I will for now, withhold final judgement until I have seen the film itself.  Presently, I have my reservations. I will review it properly once seen, and my “Bible Ladies” post will follow soon.



Harmony: A Heart for Worship

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Pastor Joe, our worship leader, asked me some time ago if I could prepare a lesson on worship for the worship team.  So after some delay, here we go.

In the Temple of Jerusalem the devotions and worship of the people of Israel were led by the priests and the Levites. While the analogy is imperfect, we today have a similar arrangement with pastors and evangelists leading the ministry of the word, and worship leaders, choir directors, and worship teams guiding the “praise.”

I will deviate here for clarification purposes. As I have already noted the analogy is imperfect.  While in the Catholic, Orthodox, and “high” Protestant churches, there still is a distinct sacramental role in which “priest-craft” is mandated, most evangelical churches, and those based on the fundamentals of the scriptures hold to a “priesthood of all believers.” It is in this sense that those proclaiming the Word, and those focusing others on praise are all fulfilling the “priestly role” of being a bridge between the divine and the world.

That said, the role of those leading the music, devotional readings, and other outward expressions of faith (dance, drama, and even the decoration and craft of the meeting house) are “Levites” in their duties.

Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, that the believers should “speak[ing] to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).”

Speaking in Psalms is an interesting starting place.  A psalm simply put is a prayer set to music.  The term itself is drawn from a Greek root “to pluck.” The book which bears that name in Hebrew is Tehillim “praises,” [but contains hymns and songs as well]. One of these (number 100) encapsulates this meaning wonderfully, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing (verses 1 and 2).”

This 100th Psalm leads us to hymns.  These are odes or songs in praise of God. Originally a Greco-Roman concept in praise of the gods of Olympus or the Capitol, its meaning is still clear – “Singing the glory of the Divine.”  While psalms bear a connotation of praying accompanied by “the twanging of a harp” and thus possibly a solo presentation as well as a communal one, Hymns (and chorales) are intended to be communal.

Spiritual songs are as they suggest musical expressions which uplift the congregation either as individuals or a body.  These may reflect on our Christian walk, on our relationship to the family and to God, or to scriptures. Many of these scriptural ones are powerful.  Two of my favourites which illustrate their application are I John 4: 7-8 and Sister Janet Mead’s  rendering of the Lord’s Prayer.

But much can also be learned in reflection of the final phrase of the Ephesian passage,  “make music (melody) from your heart to the Lord.”  This musicality whether skilled or raw is an act of the heart.  It should never become mere performance!

So, whether congregational reciting of psalms (via Psalters, or more modern renderings), hymns and “songs of praise,”  or reflective spiritual reflections – the praises of a church are an uplifting expression of faith.  Those who lead and guide these efforts are every bit as much “ministers” (servants) of the flock as are the pastors, teachers, and evangelists.

King David saw this and applied the skills of the Levites to further the worship of God, In 1 Chronicles 25 we see,

“King David and the leaders of the Levites chose the following Levite clans to lead the worship services: Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. They were to proclaim God’s messages, accompanied by the music of harps and cymbals. This is the list of persons chosen to lead the worship, with the type of service that each group performed: . . .The six sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah. Under the direction of their father they proclaimed God’s message, accompanied by the music of harps, and sang praise and thanks to the Lord. The fourteen sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti Ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. God gave to Heman, the king’s prophet, these fourteen sons and also three daughters, as he had promised, in order to give power to Heman.  All of his sons played cymbals and harps under their father’s direction, to accompany the Temple worship. And Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under orders from the king. All these twenty-four men were experts; and their fellow Levites were trained musicians. There were 288 men in all.  To determine the assignment of duties they all drew lots, whether they were young or old, experts or beginners (verses 1 – 8).

These leaders of worship were also “workers worthy of their hire,” as 1 Chronicles 9: 33 notes, “Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for the work day and night.” I was talking to a brother recently who seemed surprised that worship leaders could do it as “a job.”  Yet, here we have in the scriptures a sound precedent. Even if unpaid (or merely as an expression of their own devotion) these guides to our praises are worthy of our thanks, and recognition.

The body has many parts (1 Corinithians 12), and each has its role and importance.  For those who are called to be leaders in praise, whether in music, word, or dance, do so making the “melody in your heart.” For those of us who follow, let us share in their melody, and together live and praise in harmony.


Back to the Garden Review

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My Travel Tuesday post, and my foodie side come together today, as I review a spectacular farm shop – restaurant business. Located near Holt in north Norfolk, Back to the Garden is a quality farm shop and eatery.  It offers organic meat and veg, and most all of the products are either from the farm itself or from the local area.

We first stopped into Back to the Garden to check out the farm shop. What we found was a great little restaurant/cafe, a quality deli, a butchers – and the farm shop to boot. The cafe is far more a restaurant than “quick cuppa” establishment with table service and a very welcoming staff. We had a great falafel salad (me) and some top quality burger (her), as well as yummy cake and scones. The food is good and fresh, and care is taken with the orders.

The attached deli and farm shop provided some real treats too, such as home-made black pudding (one of my wife’s favourites), cherries that seemed fresh from the tree, and some really great cheeses, including a wonderfully creamy blue goats cheese.

We were able to get some really unexpected treats as well.  A scotch egg made with smoked mackerel instead of sausage.  This had a savoury flavour which is really superior to the average veggie sausage variety.  Items such as large bhajis and various pies and pasties were also on offer.

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The butcher provides their own farm beef which is freshly ground, and we usually (this has become a regular monthly visit) pick up a couple of kilos which sees my wife through the month’s meals in burgers, and casseroles.   On our last visit we bought a single skin-on, boneless chicken breast that was over 2 pounds in weight.  This was cut into four smaller portions, each of which made for an entire poultry portion for meals. The meat is grass-fed and organic, and all raised on their own farm, or obtained locally.

The awards that the shop and restaurant have received are impressive, and well deserved. They include:

    • The Times Top 20 Farm Shops
    • EDP Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer 2013
    • EDP Best Farm Shop 2011
    • EDP Best Farm Shop 2009
    • Soil Association Best Rump Steak 2013
    • Soil Association Best Rib of Beef 2013
    • Soil Association Best Chicken 2012

This is a venue to sample and explore, if in the Cromer or Holt area.


Web Link

Calling on God


There is a tale about Rabbi Bunem retold by Shoshannah Brombacher which refers to his discussion of Genesis 3:14, “On your belly you shall crawl, and dust you shall eat, all the days of your life.” The serpent was thus cursed by God.

The story recounts how the learned rabbi pondered this passage and reflected, “Is that such a terrible curse? Dust is everywhere, so the snake’s table is always full, no matter where he goes.” “Wouldn’t it be convenient if we could live on dust?” The world is full of the poor, and hungry.  Eating dust, would lift such hardship.

“But life as a human being,” explained the chassidic master, “means that we are constantly crying out to G‑d for help: women in childbirth, hungry children, fathers without a job… So mankind has a connection, a very strong connection to G‑d which the snake does not have. It needs nothing, it asks for nothing. And that is truly a curse. But we, we are like children with our father. G‑d is our father, the one to whom we turn countless times a day to provide for us and protect us…”

Satan has lost his relationship with God. The serpent in its estranged position from the Almighty, need not call upon Him. But we in our world, in which women encounter the reality of “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children (Genesis 3:16) and the sons of Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food (verses 17 – 19).” These hardships, as the rabbi remarked, lead us to call upon Him.  We are ever mindful of our dependence on Him.  We retain relationship.

The rabbi (much in keeping with Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus) noted, “A poor man is always aware of this blessing (the relationship with the Father). The wealthy man, too, is so blessed, but it is a little more difficult for him to know this. The challenge of wealth is that one should always keep this in mind, and turn to G‑d every day for help and guidance.”

We in the western world are blessed materially. That is not to say we don’t have our struggles, but we may well need to “get past ourselves” and our “self-sufficiency” which is an illusion.

Are we thankful when we have trials? Do we see these as an opportunity to grow, not only personally, but in our relationship with God?

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances [good and bad] (1 Thess 5: 16-18).”

Psalm 34: 1 – 4, “I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. I will boast of all his kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and exalt his name. For I cried to him and he answered me! He freed me from all my fears.”

Who needs to have dust, when we have such a rich portion in Him?


Simple Curried Cauliflower Soup

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As I have previously noted, my wife’s chemo treatment left her system intolerant of solid foods.  She resorted to eating large amounts of yoghurt, but also we came up with several quick and easy soup recipes to vary her diet.  Many of these have remained regular lunches for her (and us) especially on cold winter days. This particular recipe is a “go to” and is prepared at least once a month.

For many people cauliflower is seen as a bland dish, but with the aid of a little spice and some coconut milk, this need not be the case.


  • Cauliflower 1 medium
  • Curry Paste 1 Tbs (heaped)
  • Vegetable Stock Cube (2)
  • Water 1.5 litres
  • Tinned Coconut Milk 400 g
  • Curry Spice large pinch


Remove outer leaves from cauliflower, and rinse well.  Cut into medium sized pieces and set aside.  In a large pan (or soup maker) heat the curry paste then add the cauliflower and stir to coat.  Add water and bring to a low boil and let boil for 20 minutes.  Then add stock cubes and continue at low boil for an additional 30 minutes.  Blitz well to make a smooth soup mixture, then add the coconut milk. Blitz again until evenly mixed, and serve with a pinch of curry powder as garnish.


Beet Eggs (Pennsylvania Dutch Inspired)

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This is a recipe inspired by the cooking of the Pennsylvania Dutch (German-speaking settlers to that colony, and then state).  The so-called Dutch include the Mennonite, and Amish communities, but also a sizable group of Catholics of German descent. The names of many of the towns in “Dutch Country” show their German and evangelical heritages with such places as Manheim, Lititz, and Brunnersville.

This dish is a wonderful departure from the British style of pickled egg, with a sweeter flavour, the enhancement by the beets, and a great presentation colour of the red eggs.


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Hard boil the eggs (8 -10 minutes) in salted water. Cool and shell.  Pour the juice from the beetroot into a glass container and reserve. Finely slice the onion, and beetroot (if not pre-sliced) and place in a large glass bowl or container. Add eggs to the bowl. Add the vinegar to the beet juice (enough to make 1 1/2 cups in total). Pour the red-vinegar mixture into a steel or other non-reactive pan, and dissolve the sweetener, and add the bay, pepper, and cinnamon. Bring to a low boil, and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Pour mixture (including leaves, and cinnamon) over the eggs, beets, and onions. Lightly seal and allow to cool before refrigerating for 3 days or so.  Serve as a side or as a lunch item.


Mediterranean Salad

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Salad isn’t just for the summer. This Mediterranean Salad has a nice blend of flavours and works as a “light lunch” option, a side, or as I prefer it as a great filling in a tortilla wrap.


  • Baby Spinach Leaf 2 cups
  • Tomatoes 3 chopped
  • Red Bell Pepper 1 diced and roasted
  • Red Onion 1/4 diced
  • Black Olives1/2 cup sliced
  • Red Olives 5
  • Cucumber 1/2 chopped
  • Roasted Garlic 2 cloves roasted and sliced
  • Feta Cheese 100 g crumbled
  • Sundried Tomato 3 Tbs drained of oil
  • Olive Oil 3 Tbs
  • Lemon Juice 1 Tbs
  • Salt and Pepper sprinkling
  • Pine Nuts 1 Tbs

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Rinse spinach and place in a large bowl. Dice the onion, cucumber, and tomatoes and add to the bowl. Chop the sun dried tomatoes and add pre-roasted garlic and peppers, olives, and cheese and place in bowl. Add oil and lemon juice and stir mixture until well coated. Sprinkle with seasoning and pine nuts.