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A recipe for a healthy marriage

Pastor Jim Alblas

Pioneer Christian Reformed Church

3592 17 Mile RD NE, Cedar Springs

It’s common knowledge that summer is a very popular time for weddings. In my church, July ranks as the top anniversary month, with August not far behind. This summer, it’s likely that you will either get married, attend someone else’s wedding or at least send an anniversary card. Since the topic of marriage is popular right now, I thought it fitting to see what the Bible teaches us about what makes for a healthy marriage. While there are various places to turn to answer that question, I share with you what we find in the Old Testament book of Song of Songs.

Song of Songs chronicles the romantic journey of a man and woman from their courtship to their wedding day and into their married lives. What I found most profound is the continuous passion between the couple in all three stages. While they are dating, as seen in chapter one, listen to the words of the woman. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for your love is more delightful than wine.” And hear the man, “Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels.” Then on their wedding day, the passion continues as seen in chapter three. She says, “Come out, you daughters of Zion, and look at King Solomon wearing the crown, the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced.”  And he replies by saying: “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”  But as we follow the story, we see how they keep up their passion, even as they get married. She says to her husband in chapter seven:  “Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages. Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded.” She wants to go out on a date with her husband and knowing him, he will certainly oblige. Their continued passion and even dating is a powerful lesson married couples can learn from.

Often, when people are dating, they speak passionately to one another, gaze lovingly at each other and enjoy frequent outings together. However, when a couple becomes married, sometimes those things lessen. Why is that? Perhaps during courtship we work hard to win each other over, and now, having been won over, we put in less effort. Maybe the excitement that comes, with something being new, naturally fades as it is no longer new. Whatever the reason may be, I say we learn from the continuous passion of this husband and wife. As married folks, we need to keep writing love letters and keep going out on dates; it’s an ingredient for a healthy marriage. It’s not the only ingredient; you also need love, respect, commitment and to keep God at the center of your relationship. But, when we combine a continued passion for God, with a continued passion for each other, we find a recipe for a healthy marriage.

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Tantalizing Tomato Tidbits

Appetizers to get the party started


(Family Features)

Great appetizers are full of flavor to stimulate the appetite, but not so rich that they spoil it. To get that balance, look to fresh, flavorful ingredients like Florida tomatoes.

Ripe tomatoes add beautiful color, great taste, and a host of healthy nutrients — like vitamin C — to any appetizer. Chef Justin Timineri, known as the Florida Chef, and Florida Tomatoes have created some mouthwatering appetizer recipes using the versatile, tantalizing tomato.

—Tomato Cobb Salad Wrap — Turn a favorite salad into a tasty finger food by wrapping up Cobb salad ingredients in a flour tortilla.

—Tomato and Avocado Salsa — Whether you make it mild or spice it up, this salsa will make a lot of mouths happy. Try serving it in individual, wide mouthed glasses so guests can dip and re-dip as much as they like.

—Hot Artichoke Dip Stuffed Tomatoes — A savory party favorite, this dip gets extra flavor by being paired up with juicy baked tomatoes.

—Bruschetta with Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Pecans — Sweet, savory, crunchy, salty — this appetizer has it all.

To get more appetizer and party-ready recipes, as well as sign up for a free newsletter, visit www.floridatomatoes.org.



Don’t Refrigerate

For the best tomato flavor, never refrigerate them. A chilled tomato will not finish ripening because cold halts the ripening process. Cold also kills the flavor of tomatoes, so even when the tomatoes are fully ripe, keep them out of the refrigerator.



How Much?

1 medium tomato, seeded = approximately 3/4 cup chopped.

1 large tomato, seeded = 1 cup chopped.

1 pound of tomatoes = approximately 2 1/2 cups chopped, or 2 cups puréed.



Tomato and Avocado Salsa

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2             large Florida tomatoes, diced

1             large avocado, peeled, seeded and diced

1/2             cup red onion, chopped

1/2             cup bell pepper, chopped

1/4             cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1             lime, juiced

1             teaspoon powdered cumin

Your favorite hot sauce (for heat)

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir to combine.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

Serve at room temperature for best flavor.

For hotter version, substitute 1 seeded fresh jalapeño pepper for green pepper. Also, if you prefer, use toasted cumin seed instead of ground cumin.



Hot Artichoke Dip Stuffed Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings

1             package (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, softened

2             large fresh Florida tomatoes, seeds removed  and diced

1/4             cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/2             cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

1             clove garlic, minced

1             tablespoon fresh basil

1             can low-sodium artichoke hearts, drained and chopped fine

1             cup fresh spinach, chopped

1             lemon, juiced

Kosher salt and fresh

ground pepper to taste

4             large fresh Florida tomatoes

1/4             cup mozzarella cheese,  shredded

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, diced tomatoes, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, garlic and fresh basil. Stir in chopped artichoke hearts and spinach. Taste mixture and adjust seasoning with lemon juice, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Set stuffing mixture aside.

Rinse whole tomatoes under cold running water and pat dry with clean paper towels. Slice off top of each tomato with a serrated knife; cut in half. Squeeze each half to loosen seeds. Using a spoon, scoop out 1/3 of the insides of tomato. Fill tomatoes with stuffing mixture. Top each stuffed tomato with shredded mozzarella.

Place stuffed tomatoes in baking dish and put into preheated oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm with tortilla chips, crisp flatbreads, or sliced vegetables.



Bruschetta with Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Pecans

Yield: 4 servings

2             ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2             cup crumbled blue cheese

2             tablespoons coarsely chopped


4             slices crusty, firm-textured bread, cut about 3/4 inch thick

2             cloves garlic peeled and halved

2             large Florida tomatoes, sliced  about 1/8 inch thick

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Chopped fresh basil or dried basil for garnish

In small bowl, mash cheeses together with fork, leaving mixture somewhat chunky. Mix in pecans.

Preheat broiler. Arrange bread on small baking sheet and broil slices for about 1 minute on each side, just until golden. Watch carefully so bread doesn’t burn.

Rub one side of each piece of bread with garlic.

Spread some of the cheese mixture over each slice and arrange 2 or 3 overlapping tomato slices on top. Pepper tomatoes lightly, then garnish with basil and serve.



Tomato Cobb Salad Wrap

Yield: 4 servings

4             large (10-inch) flour tortillas

6             tablespoons prepared blue cheese dressing

8             ounces sliced cooked turkey breast

3             medium, fully ripened fresh Florida tomatoes (about 1 pound), cut into thin slices

4             leaves Boston, iceberg or  leaf lettuce

1             ripe Hass avocado, peeled and cut into thin slices

4             strips cooked bacon

Spread each tortilla with 1 1/2 tablespoons of dressing.

Top with layers of turkey, tomato, lettuce, avocado and bacon, dividing evenly.

Roll up tortillas. If desired, tie each wrap with chives, or secure with long toothpicks, and cut each sandwich in half.

To serve, stand both halves of each sandwich on cut ends. Garnish with tomato wedges, green onions and avocado.


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