A Homecoming Feast

By , June 17, 2014 3:57 pm

When they stepped ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish on it and some bread. Then Jesus said to them…”Come and eat.”

John 21:9-12 GNT

The scene where Jesus cooks breakfast for His friends is possibly my favorite glimpse of Him in Scripture. He is the risen Lord, having defeated sin and death, and still He reaches out to those He loves with such humanity and simplicity. He chooses to minister to them over a meal! This is my ministry in this season, too; He’s teaching me what it means to feast.
My son recently moved home to Birmingham for his fourth year of med school. I had been anticipating (with some angst) Jackson’s relentless appetite, his ever-changing schedule, and my own heavy workload as a pharmacist. “Lord, what am I going to cook and when?” I cried out as I tried to generate a menu. The Holy Spirit reminded me to “seek first His kingdom” and trust the promise that He will help me.
So I put down my grocery list and pulled out my list of verses on the theme of “feast.” My eyes nearly popped out of my head when they landed on this passage:

We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time!

…Your father has ordered a feast—barbequed beef!

—because he has (his son) home safe and sound.

Luke 15:24, 27 MSG


Perfect—so personal and so helpful! “Thank You, Lord! Barbequed beef brisket will be my first offering,” I said. I had been hankering for some street tacos, so I made the brisket in the slow cooker and served it with tortillas and a yummy chili sauce. God not only provided the vision, but He also gave me a friend who helped me develop the recipe I share below.
My heart feasted as we ate those tacos together as a family. It was a celebration of the start of this special year, when—like the family in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son–my grown son will be home again. I was also celebrating the dawning of a new understanding of all that Jesus meant when He said, “Feed My sheep.”
Barbequed Beef Brisket
“Crock Pot Queen” is one of the many pseudonyms I have for multi-talented Dana Smith. (She is also the administrator for this website.) Her technique for pre-cooking the brisket yielded incredibly succulent shredded beef, not a bit stringy like other recipes I’ve tried. Blame her and thank her for the extra step—it is not difficult, just requires a little planning ahead. Also, Dana uses prepared barbeque sauce instead of the homemade chili sauce when she is serving a Southern barbeque dinner.
Brisket Ingredients:
1 beef brisket (3 to 4 lb.)
2 teaspoons salt
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ cup beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper to taste
Tortillas, warmed, for serving (we like the small corn tortillas)
Assorted taco toppings (cilantro, jack cheese, guacamole, or your favorite salsas—the mango salsa from Whole Foods produce section was fantastic here!)
Sauce Ingredients:
1 poblano pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
2 serrano peppers
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (7.5 oz.) chipotles in adobo sauce
½ onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 ¾ cups beef broth
Precook the beef: Cut brisket into 3-inch chunks. Rub the pieces evenly with salt. Place sliced onion and meat in a greased slow cooker, then top with cilantro and ¼ cup beef broth. (Mine is the older 2-quart size, so you may want to adjust quantities accordingly.) Cook over night on the low setting. Take the meat out of the pot in the morning. Drain and bring to room temperature or refrigerate to complete the recipe later.
Prepare the sauce: Stem, seed, and chop the peppers. Transfer them to a blender. Add garlic, three chipotles, 1 to 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce, onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil, honey, vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, and the oregano to the blender; puree until smooth. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat; add the chili sauce and cook, stirring until thick and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Pour in the broth and reduce until slightly thickened. (If this is more than you want to try, look in the Hispanic section of your grocery store and try a bottled sauce instead.)
Complete the recipe: Season the meat all over with salt and pepper and transfer to slow cooker. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and then pour in the sauce. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. (Alternatively, cook the meat in a large Dutch oven, covered, for 1½ hours at 350 degrees; uncover and cook 30 minutes more.) Discard bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Shred the beef with 2 forks; season with salt and pepper. Serve the shredded beef in tortillas along with the toppings.
Crock Pot Queen, Dana Smith
Food Network Magazine


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By , June 5, 2014 3:08 pm

As I turn my attention away from teaching weekly Bible studies this summer, the idea of connecting with friends and family has been foremost on my mind. So often in Scripture and in my own life this happens around the table. I thought it might be fun to share some of the wonderful recipes I’ve tried and proven over the years. Read on to find out what food has to do with the life of faith! I’ve also provided a killer menu for your next special occasion. I’ll be sending out more recipes in future posts. I hope you will enjoy this new series and will be blessed with deep and meaningful connection as you prepare some feasts of your own.




God-of-the-Angel-Armies will throw a feast for all the people of the world, a feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines, a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.

Isaiah 25:6 MSG

Romans 12:13 exhorts us to “practice hospitality.” That thought scares me to death. In my heart, I want to welcome and to serve those I love, but I never take the next step and invite people over. Schedules are tight, I always think, and my home is in need of repair. My dining room wallpaper has an unsightly water stain, and the table has glitter imbedded into the surface due to some Christmas decorations gone awry. I am a recovering perfectionist, so I keep waiting for the ideal set of circumstances. I’ve excused myself by saying, “Hospitality’s just not my gift,” then busying myself with anything besides serving as hostess.
Yet it seems that everywhere I turn these days, the Lord is reminding me and nudging me to experience a new aspect of abundant life. He is cultivating a “feast mentality” in me. In Scripture, dining together represents intimate connection. Jesus suggests a dinner date with Him: “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends. “(Rev 3:20 NLT).
God’s plan for the culmination of this earthly life is a huge wedding supper in heaven! Until then, we are encouraged to find nourishment and strength by gathering with the family of God. We can limit that experience to taking communion together at church. But why not feed spirit, soul, and body as we relish delicious food and good conversation while lingering over a shared meal?

We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming. (Hebrews 10:25 GWT)

I’m hungry for the blessings that happen when we come together and feast, so I’ve been asking God to help me pursue this incredible opportunity. He used my husband’s birthday dinner to remind me that I do have something to bring to the table (pun intended!). Even with my tendency to be a nervous hostess, I was calm, able to focus on my guests, and still provide a delicious spread.
As I reflected on the little party I put on for 5 of our closest family members, I realized that I had chosen recipes for that night that were tried and true. Over the years I’ve been willing to attempt lots of new dishes and have developed a wonderful repertoire of recipes gleaned from books and magazines and friends. When using one of these faithful favorites, all that’s required of me is to purchase quality ingredients and do the prep work.
I’m asking the Lord to enable me to embrace His call to hospitality, to push past my insecurities, and to start practicing. I hope you will join me. I believe there is great joy in store for us as we learn the art of the feast.
Here are Bob’s birthday dinner recipes. If you want to simplify, order a cake from the bakery and change the vegetable to basic roasted asparagus. Enjoy!
Elegant Beef Tenderloin
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ cup green onions, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 pounds beef tenderloin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Sauté mushrooms and onions in butter. Drain, and stir in parsley; set aside. Cut tenderloin lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, bottom. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Spoon mushroom mixture into the trough-like opening. Combine soy sauce, wine, honey, and brown sugar; pour over meat. Marinate in refrigerator overnight or, if cooking the same day, about 2 hours at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place tenderloin on greased roasting rack and cook for 30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees—will be pink on the inside and brown on the outside. Let meat rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Adapted from “Food for Thought” by Birmingham Junior League.

Mustard Roasted New Potatoes
2 1/2 pounds new potatoes
 (I used Yukon gold)
2 yellow onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces (halves for the smaller potatoes, quarters for the larger ones). Place potatoes into a large plastic bag with a zipper seal. Peel onion and cut in half. Slice crosswise to about 1/4 inch thickness to make half rounds and add to bag.
Combine the olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper; add to the vegetables and toss together. This can be prepped a few hours in advance and left in the plastic bag until ready to roast.
Spread potatoes and onions onto sheet pan. Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour; until potatoes are lightly browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Toss the potatoes occasionally to prevent sticking and for even browning.
Garnish with chopped parsley and more salt if needed. Serve immediately.  

Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa At Home” by Ina Garten.

Fresh Asparagus with Green Peas and Lemon Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed, stalks peeled if thick
1 1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Whisk olive oil, cheese, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a medium bowl to blend. Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Set dressing aside.
Bring water in a large saucepan to a boil; add asparagus and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to colander in ice water.
Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and place thawed peas on top. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette on top, and then sprinkle with bacon.
Adapted from Bon Appétit April 2013
Award Winning Carrot Cake
Cake ingredients:
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 ½ teaspoonfuls baking soda
2 ½ teaspoonfuls cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped dates
1 teaspoon orange peel, grated
Frosting Ingredients:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 (1 pound) boxes confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Sift dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. In the food processor, combine oil, vanilla, and eggs, pulsing until thoroughly blended. Add carrots, dates, and orange peel to the processor and process for about 2 minutes. Add contents of processor to dry ingredients. Mix only until completely combined. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bang the filled cake pans and then spin right and left to evenly distribute contents. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Allow cake to cool in pans about 15 minutes.
Using half the frosting, spread a generous portion between the layers and a thin coating on the outside. Place in the deep freeze for about 10 to 20 minutes to firm up and prevent crumbs. Ice the outside of the cake with the remaining half of the frosting.  Press toasted nuts into the icing if desired.
This cake is definitely better the second day, so bake 1 or 2 days in advance if possible.

Adapted from a cooking class by Nutcracker Sweets in Tampa, Florida.

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