Cloudy, with a Chance of Meatballs (Angel in the Kitchen)


Meatballs! Swedish, Italian, or sweet ’n’ sour — we love them all! And there are so many wonderful ways we can use them! Spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, meatballs sliced and layered in lasagna, tiny meatballs on toothpicks as appetizers….

We have three favorite recipes. We make traditional Italian meatballs using ground beef, veal, breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and Romano cheese, tomato sauce and seasonings. These are great in a variety of Italian pasta dishes, but especially spaghetti and meatballs!

We’ve also made chicken meatballs by substituting shredded chicken and cheddar cheese. We like to serve these with rigatoni, instead of spaghetti. And we frequently make Swedish meatballs for get-togethers. Our Swedish meatballs are seasoned very differently, of course, and are served in a brown sauce made with sour cream and no cheese. These are to die for, especially when served atop a plate of egg noodles!

Although we’ve never tried these other recipes, we find it interesting that meatballs can be made from ground sausage, venison, or other meats, and seasoned in a variety of ways. What makes a meatball is not so much the ingredients as that beautiful round shape. One day we were making meatballs — lots of meatballs — for a gathering, when a friend dropped by unexpectedly. We invited her to join us in the kitchen, and talk to us while we worked.

As she watched, we’d scoop out a portion of the meat mixture, and gently but firmly shape each meatball by hand. She was amazed that we had it down to a science: but no real measuring; we’d just guesstimate the portions and roll them each into an almost perfect ball — quickly and efficiently — placing the nearly uniform meatballs on a large tray. We were like potters working with clay, molding, shaping, creating little culinary ornaments.

In a manner of speaking, each of us is a potential meatball in the making! No, not a “meatball” in the derogatory sense of “a foolish or stupid person!” But God wants to shape and mold each of us for His purposes. Once we become the right “shape” spiritually, God is best able to use us to serve His Kingdom and the people around us. And like the great variety of meatball recipes we stated above, God is able to use whoever and whatever we are today, “season” us with the influence of His divine Holy Spirit, and then gently but firmly shape us into something beautiful.

Trouble is, many of us don’t allow God to do the shaping. We refuse to be flexible, pliable…. Many of us are rigid  in our thinking and our habits; and most of us are determined to “shape” our own destinies! In other words, many of us refuse to place ourselves, who and what we are at present, into the hands of the Master Chef, in order to allow Him to mold us.

God wanted His followers to understand this important truth, so He told His prophet Jeremiah to go to the potter’s workshop. Once there, Jeremiah observed that often the vessel “…the potter was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” (Jeremiah 18:4 NIV) Then God told His prophet, ask My people “…Can’t I do with you as [the] potter does with clay? …You are like the clay in the potter’s hands.” (Jeremiah 18:6 GOD’S WORD)

Are you allowing God to mold you? Are you soft, flexible, pliable, willing to place yourself into the hands of the Master? To be good clay (or ground beef), we must be teachable, willing to learn from God, the Bible, or anyone who shares a truth with us. To be flexible, we need to be receptive to new ideas (as long as they don’t countermand God’s sovereign Word). To be pliable, we need to be willing to surrender to God’s will, and give up our “right to be right.” (We can’t expect to get every thing our way!)

We may all start out as a pile of raw hamburger, with our prospects looking cloudy, but there’s always a chance of meatballsif we allow God to shape our lives.


A Strategy for Salads (Angel in the Kitchen)

Are you crazy?!? Don’t touch that giant pea pod!! Uh, too late.

We recently discussed Culinary Oddballs, those misfit foods that defy categorization. For instance, most vegetables are either roots, stems, seeds or leaves, but the tomato … well, it’s not even classed as a veggie. It belongs to the fruit family. So does the avocado. Yes, you’ve been scooping up fruit dip with those tortilla chips. And the coconut? Another fruit, right? Nah, coconuts are actually really big seeds, and therefore fit better in the seed and nut category. Peas? They’re just plain weird, hiding in their green pods all quiet and unassuming, all the while plotting to take over the earth. (Like in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers!)

On the other hand, no one is fooled by the banana, right? Bananas are fruit, period! Banana cream pie, banana ice cream, bananas dipped in chocolate, Bananas Foster, banana pudding! And yet … the plantain belongs to the same family as the banana, but in many cultures the plaintain is prepared and served as a veggie. In fact, it’s often considered the “Hispanic potato.” In several Latin American cuisines plantains are baked, boiled, mashed, and fried — just like spuds. And by the way, we actually prefer tostones (crispy fried and salted sliced plantains) over french fries! So, is the plaintain a fruit or a veggie? Uh, yeah.

What do we do with these culinary oddballs? We enjoy them. We find ways to use them and help them fit in to our meals. We give the tomato a big group hug between two slices of rye with some baked ham; we blend the avocado with seasonings and make a killer dip that tortilla chips can’t resist; we sprinkle coconut on everything from shrimp to ice cream, and  sometimes we lovingly smother it in dark chocolate; and peas … well, now that we’re adults we love them, too! And all these items can be tossed together in a salad or stew!

¡Tostones son deliciosos!

We also encounter “oddballs” in life. Good people that don’t seem to fit the standard profile. People with their own unique personalities, gifts and talents. People who have much to offer and contribute — if we let them. Maybe they have different beliefs, interests, or backgrounds. Maybe they’re just shy. But for one reason or another, they don’t fit in with the crowd. And know what? At one time or another, in some situation or group, we’ve all been there!

What should we do with these social misfits? Toss ’em out? Nope. Toss ’em IN. Make a social salad! How do we do that? By being welcoming and accepting and inclusive. Here’s God’s simple recipe for making a Social Salad. It’s really quite simple:

SYMPATHIZE! Remember what it was like when YOU felt alone and strange — like you didn’t fit in; like you were an oddball! Then treat others the same way you wish you’d been treated. Welcome them. Make them feel accepted and a part of your group, circle, etc.  “You are not to wrong or oppress an alien [newcomer / misfit / ‘oddball’], because you were aliens [‘oddballs’] in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21 ISV)

STRATEGIZE! Think of ways to use their gifts and talents, ways to help them feel comfortable with the rest of the crowd. Help them find a place and fit in. “The stranger [newcomer / misfit / ‘oddball’] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens [‘oddballs’] in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34 NASB)

SOCIALIZE! Do we really need to explain this one? Just talk. Communicate. Be friendly. Share food, fun, and fellowship. Play nice together!  “…Show your love for the alien [newcomer / misfit / ‘oddball’], for you were aliens [‘oddballs’] in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19 NASB)

If you feel awkward or uncomfortable (or odd!) doing any of this, it’s probably because you’re fearful of coming across as an oddball yourself — a sure sign that you really do understand what it’s like.  And if you understand … well … then you’re the best person to toss together a social salad using the “3-S” recipe!