Church Camp Redux

I went to church camp every summer when I was a kid.  It was the highlight of my summer because we didn’t really ever go on family vacations.   Camp was normally during mid-July, and from the end of the school year until the day we left for camp, my friend Carlene and I would call each other on the phone at least once a day to go over the “list” to make sure nothing of supreme importance was left at home during camp week.

Another important part of camp was the Bible/spiritual part.  We would memorize countless verses to earn points for our team.  We had Bible studies together everyday, and of course, there was a campfire worship service every night, culminating with the big last night of the week-crying because of the work of the holy spirit-throwing sticks in the fire to represent the sin you were repenting of-CAMPFIRE.  After I would get home from camp, it would take another week to decompress, to sort through what I learned, and to set out to be a better Christian by keeping all the promises I made to myself and God regarding my behavior.

Here’s where the REDUX comes in.  I attended a 2-day leadership seminar sponsored by the Willow Creek Association this past Thursday and Friday (The Global Leadership Summit).  The seminar is two days of well-known Christian and business leaders speaking on topics relevant to Christians in leadership roles.  I went as a part of group from the church where I work.  My post-seminar personal debriefing has a very familiar feeling–I feel like I did after church camp as a kid.  I am re-evaluating my personal piety practices, my work habits, my personal schedule.  I am asking myself how I can be a better Christian in all the roles I play in my life.

I know the tone of this post sounds somewhat sarcastic, and well, I am a bit jaded about these intense periods of teaching and spiritual contemplation and what kind of real impact these sorts of things can have on my life.  BUT, I ultimately think times like these can be helpful.  I am blessed to be in a church where we partake of the Lord’s Supper each week, and through that practice, I find myself being better about personal repentance and keeping a shorter account with God.  But hearing the thoughts of Christians outside my own tradition for a concentrated time and allowing my guard to come down so the Holy Spirit can prick my conscience is still good.  It is helpful for me to take a little spiritual inventory, and consider ways I might become more like Jesus.  The part that is a lot like my church camp experience is that ultimately, I will probably fail in my resolutions to make a change.  Ultimately my behavior may not be noticeably different to those around me.  But I am counting on God’s grace to use the experience I had this past week in the same way that he used camp when I was a kids.  I am counting on His forgiveness when I fail, and I am counting on Him to change me just a little bit and to slowly change me in more noticeable ways for His glory.  I am also starting to count the days until I can attend the Summit again.

Recipes — from me, the one who barely gets to the grocery store anymore

Perhaps I am posting recipes because I wish I had a stocked refrigerator and pantry in order to cook real meals.  Lately, I have been fortunate to make it to the grocery store to buy milk.  Cereal and other daily staples have been in short supply because I have just had other things to do with my Saturdays, and going to the store on a weeknight after work is also just not appealing.  But I popped on over to Annie’s blog, and she was, as usual, posting some great recipes.  Some of these recipes were for her crockpot, and I was inspired to share a recipe that I love for the crockpot.

My sister-in-law, Tricia, sent it to me probably ten years ago, and I have made it pretty often since then.  At some point, I lost the recipe she sent, so I searched on-line to find one very similar to it, if not exactly the same, and the taste was very close.  So, here it is (Of course, for my crew, this has to be doubled.):

Crockpot Porkchops

3/4 cup flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper blend
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
4 boneless pork loin chops (1/2 inch thick)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 c. chicken broth
1 C. sherry

Preparation method
1.     In a shallow dish or pie pan, whisk together 1/2 cup flour, mustard, pepper, and salt. Dredge pork chops in mixture.

2.     Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry pork chops in hot oil until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes,   then place in a 5-quart slow cooker.

3.     Whisk 1/4 cup flour into chicken broth and sherry, then add mixture to slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

4.     Serve pork with pan juices poured over each.

(I am thinking of trying this recipe with chicken breasts instead of pork tomorrow, since I happen to have chicken breasts in the freezer.  I think it will work well!)

Another source of recipes I use all the time is a cookbook called Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas. I have had this cookbook for at least 15 years, and some of my “regulars” come from this book.

Since I am linking the cookbook’s website and the Amazon link to the book, I am going to post a couple of the recipes from the book with little fear of copyright infringement.

I use this first recipe for Mexican Style Chicken and Rice at least 3 times a month.  I LOVE it, and my family likes it.  It is easy and quick as the book title promises, and it is obviously tried and true.

Mexican Style Chicken and Rice

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can chopped chiles (We don’t eat chiles at our house, and it is great flavor without them.)

1 can chicken broth (low sodium, if you want to be super healthy)

1 3/4 C quick cooking brown rice (I use white rice sometimes)

6 drops tabasco sauce (I never use this)

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 oz grated, lowfat cheddar cheese (true confession–we use regular cheddar most of the time 🙂

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook onion and pepper in skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Add the next 6 ingredients.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and spoon into a 9×13 baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Arrange chicken on top of rice mixture.  Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 minutes or until rice is cooked.  Sprinkle cheese over chicken.  Let stand for 5 min or until cheese is melted.

I often skip the cooking of the onions and peppers and boiling of the rice in the chicken broth when I make this because of time and a desire to keep the number of cooking pans to a minimum.  When I do this, I bake for another 5 – 10 minutes.  It turns out fine using this method, but the chicken is not quite as moist.

I serve this with sour cream as a garnish.

Also from the  Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas cookbook is the recipe that my 13-year-old son made for me for my birthday dinner.  It is really yummy.  Since Nevin made it, I found a variation of it for the crockpot on line, so I am sharing that version here.  I haven’t tried it in the crockpot yet, but I am sure it will be as good as it was baked in the oven.

Chicken a la Soda

3 skinless boneless chicken breasts (or eqiuvalent of boneless tenders)
1 can orange soda
1/4 cup of water
1 cup diced celery
1 can of sliced mushrooms
3 cups cooked instant brown rice

place chicken in crock pot
pour soda over chicken
add 1/4 cup of water
add veggies
cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 4-6 hours. (check internal temp of chicken to make sure done)
Cook rice in microwave or stovetop.
When done, place .5 cup of rice on plate. Place chicken (4 oz) on rice and spoon juices w/veggies on top of chicken and rice.

(The recipe Nevin used was practically identical to this.  If you want to cook it in the oven, place in a covered 3qt casserole, and bake it for 35 – 35 minutes.)

Reflecting on all these tried and true recipes may have motivated me enough to have a plan for meals for the next few days.  Maybe they’ve inspired you, too.