Tuesday, March 09, 2010

the bread of life

A green tree frog at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park in East Texas.
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

I had been wondering why God had me so excited about food these days, and while I don't have the complete answer, one thing was revealed to me in my morning bible study today. I'm doing Experiencing God with a group of awesome women at my church (which I am thoroughly enjoying) and today one of the exercises involved reading over the "names" of God in the Bible and seeing which we relate to, or recognize in our interactions with Him. One that stood out to me was the Bread of Life. Of course this relates to when Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life" (or specifically, "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35) and that relates back to when Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt where they were enslaved and to the promised land of Canaan. Only they kind of screwed up and God had them stay in the desert for 40 years.

That's a very true-to-life scenario in life, it seems to me that sometimes due to our own mess-ups, we end up in a desert place. Sometimes we end up there due to circumstances totally beyond our control, but often we are involved in the desertification of our own lives... At any rate while in the desert God would send "manna" from heaven which was some sort of sweet flaky bread-like stuff. ("Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day" Exodus 16:4)

It was just enough to eat and so they didn't starve but not enough to be sated. In Deuteronomy later in the bible, it says, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."

I have always related to that, because it's how God delivers spiritual wisdom most often, and how He provides for our physical sustenance in the hard times. Somehow He has always come through, at least in my life, and no matter how hard it is or how challenging something happens - a check arrives, some unexpected help, a new assignment. And since I've totally grooved on food lately that one struck me! Enough of the Bible lesson, onto the recipes! Oh but first, I wanted to mention that the last few nights have been really good for endangered Houston toad breeding! This bit won't make it into my article, and I'm excited for the toads! After several really bad years, it's shaping up to most likely be a good season for them.

This first recipe was utterly divinely delicious. So simple and healthy. I already blogged about leeks but baking them this way just was sooo awesome. I worried they may overwhelm the sweet potatoes but not at all. They were very mild and sweet.

Baked Leek and Sweet Potato Gratin
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts chopped (6 cups)
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, divided3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
3 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary, divided
2 medium sweet potatoes (2 lb.), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1/3 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
3 Tbs. Italian seasoned dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbs. finely grated Romano cheese, optional

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat 10-inch round pan with cooking spray.
2. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic, and 1 1/2 Tbs. rosemary; sauté 8 minutes, or until softened. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Arrange one-third sweet potato slices over bottom of prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Spread half of leek mixture on top. Arrange another one-third sweet potato slices over leeks; top with remaining leeks, followed by remaining sweet potatoes. Drizzle broth over dish. Cover pan with foil, and bake 35 minutes.

4. Stir together breadcrumbs, remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil, remaining 1 1/2 Tbs. rosemary, and Romano cheese, if desired, in small bowl. Remove foil from gratin, and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are browned and crisp. Let gratin cool slightly before cutting into 8 wedges and serving.

Here's the sweet potato slices going in. One top of the first and second layer goes a layer of leeks. And then it's topped by more sweet potatoes and then some bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, then drizzled with vegetable broth.
This is a bit out I chopped leeks in half moons, as the recipe called for. This is the Pampered Chef knife - the only good knife I have. It's sturdy and awesome!
After rinsing, it calls to spin the leeks in a salad spinner, which I had thanks to Doug's Christmas present!
The recipe says that you should soak the chopped leeks to ensure that you get all the dirt off. Then you rinse it in a strainer.
I did this damage all in the same day I made it. YUM! It was sooo good, and so good for you and low fat too!
Just wanted to share a cool find from Target. I try to drink decaf as much as possible, and all my grocery stores had stopped carrying organic decaf. I used to get Newman's Own but they discontinued carrying the decaf version. I had read that coffee growing uses a lot of chemicals, so I try to buy organic where possible. I don't mind paying a little more to support organic growers, and I really love when I find a fair trade brand as well. So imagine my delight, after having to go back to non-organic decaf for a few weeks, when I found this - Fair Trade, organic decaf - and only $7.99!
And here is a picture of my completely overstuffed freezer! Remember it was emptied out after Hurricane Ike, since we had no electricity for almost two weeks. How did it get so full again? I am on a mission to eat the frozen veggies and stuff in my freezer! The problem is that I will find recipes that use the ingredients in the freezer but require me also to buy new stuff! :)

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