Angel in the Kitchen: A Panini for the People!

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I can’t talk at the moment. My mouth is full of food!

Ever since we launched our book and internet series Angel in the Kitchen by announcing that our toaster can talk, another member of our eccentric ensemble of kitchen “angels” has been asking for equal time. He states quite humbly that while Lil’ Toastee can brown a bagel, warm a Pop-Tart, and make … well, toast, he can perfectly prepare a gourmet sandwich! All his boasting aside, however, Signior Panini wants a chance to share his message with the world — and it’s a bit of wisdom well worth relating. So, here now with his very own story, is that master of the glamorous grill set, Signior Panini! [We, the editors of this site, promise to return tomorrow.]

Buongiorno! I am a panini-maker! That’s a fancy title for a two-sided warming grill that heats — what else? — scrumptious panini sandwiches! Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the panini is well known in most English-speaking countries, and anyone who’s ever had one knows they are simply the best! Far better than some peanut butter spread across a piece of dry toast that’s gonna stick to the roof of your mouth — no matter what that antiquated chrome-faced toaster— [Okay, stop right there, Signior Panini! Basta! Enough! No mud-slinging or name-calling allowed! Please stick to the issues. Or we’ll be forced to place you back in the cabinet.]

Sigh, I should have listened to my mother! She wanted me to be a pasta-roller! Anyway, a panini is a grilled sandwich made from bread other than sliced bread. Yeah, you can use plain bread like that high-and-mighty Lil’— [Ahem!] Well, a great panini begins with specialty breads such as baguette, ciabatta, or michetta. The bread is split horizontally and filled with succulent meats, cheeses, and veggies such as olives and sautéed mushrooms. My editors prefer my London Broil panini: mouthwatering beef layered on thick-sliced olive bread, topped with onions and red peppers.

¿Qué pasa, amigo?

They also like my Cubano. That’s a Cuban sandwich made with ham, sliced or pulled pork, Swiss cheese, garlic pickles, and a blend of mayo and Dijon mustard — on French bread! (Hey, diversity, right?) A Cubano is basically a panini with a Spanish accent.

But without me, none of these wonderful ingredients would ever reach their full potential. A sandwich is a sandwich, but a sandwich prepared by me is a gourmet treat! The secret to my ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary lies in my design: I have two — count ’em — two grilling surfaces! These square heating surfaces, called platens, are hinged at one side. I have a platen below — upon which the sandwich is placed — and a platen above. When my upper platen is lowered, the sandwich is completely surrounded — like a gangster in an FBI movie!

Then I go to work. I apply heat and pressure from every side! My heated platens, above and below, ensure the sandwich ingredients evenly and properly cook. And the press of the weighted platens helps the bread to turn crispy and golden-brown without burning. Of course, I’m only as good as the people using me. Fortunately, my editors are usually hovering nearby, and know when to open me
and remove their delicious panini sandwich. I’m pretty
foolproof that way, which is important when dealing with my editors.
[Sigh, allowing Signior Panini to “have his say” may have been a bad idea.]

Heat and pressure from every side is the secret to my success! And guess what, life is a lot like a panini maker! People encounter obstacles every single day and in every single pursuit. They face trials in their health, finances, jobs, relationships…. You name it. Things can get pretty hot, and it often seems as though every which way you turn, you encounter the pressures of life.

Ever feel like you’re being being squeezed a little? Like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place? Like a panini in a New York delicatessen? It happens in life, but you can take comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul. He faced opposition from both Jews and Gentiles; and challenges in both the secular world and the earliest gatherings of believers. Like a spiritual panini, Paul was pressured on both sides! He confessed, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT)

Hey, do I look worried?

In spite of feeling like a human panini, Paul didn’t get bitter — he got better! Regarding his innumerable trials, he states, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Paul overcame every challenge while keeping a victorious attitude because he realized his loving Heavenly Father always had His hand on life’s panini maker. No matter how hot things seemed to get, no matter how much pressure was being applied, Paul understood he was “never abandoned by God.” (2 Corinthians 4:9) Paul’s Creator was in the process of transforming the ordinary ingredients of the apostle’s life into something extraordinary. Furthermore, God is the Master Chef — and He knows just when to lift the top platen and remove His “gourmet” masterpieces!

Paul writes, “No test or temptation [or trial] that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG) In other words, God never let’s a “panini” get burnt.

If you’re going through a season of being “pressed on every side by troubles”; and you can feel the heat of your problems surrounding you, take heart: “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13 HCSB)

Grazie for this encouraging truth, Signior Panini.

Dear reader, all trials eventually pass, and God is always with you in the midst of adversity. Furthermore, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him….” (Romans 8:28 NIV) So cling to God’s Word and His promises. And keep the faith!

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A Stirring Message! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Recently we split a mug of coffee made by our pal Mr. Keurig. You remember Mr. Keurig? When we first introduced this kitchen angel, in “The Call of the Keurig,” he was “finding his voice.” On this particular day, he was making us our favorite Hazelnut Breakfast blend.

authentic-keurig-brewerThe beauty of Mr. Keurig is that we can add the creamer and our favorite sweetener to the mug, place the mug before him, and then he does all the rest: he adds the perfect amount of water, at the perfect brewing temperature, and he does it all in a quick minute with no cleanup required! This time around, however, something wasn’t quite right. We each took a sip and frowned. Our breakfast beverage was bitter!

We distinctly remembered adding stevia to the mug before handing it over to Mr. Keurig, so we were a little confused. “Hey, Mr. Keurig!” we called. “What happened?”

Our Keurig didn’t answer. He just sat there, mutely staring at us from his place on the counter. After several awkward moments of silence, one of us asked, “What did we say? Did we somehow upset him?”

Then Mr. Keurig let out a sigh of exasperation. Actually, it was more of a loud shoooosh!

“What’s he trying to tell us?” we wondered.

Translating native Keurig is more of an art than a science, and in order to grasp the full meaning of each little utterance, one must also take into consideration the circumstances in which the words are spoken. “Mr. Keurig, can you please give us another hint?” we pleaded gently.

It was at this point that we noticed the spoon resting on the counter next to our dear friend. Clearly, Mr. Keurig was also making note of it — as well as the fact that it was dry. “Didn’t you stir the mug?” we asked. Turns out none of us had stirred our breakfast blend. And upon realizing this, it wasn’t hard to catch the full meaning of Keurig’s cry.

“Come on,” he said. “Can you please give me a break here? I daily bless you with the perfect cup of coffee. But you guys need to do your part, too. You gotta stir things up! Okay?”

“Our dear Mr. Keurig,” we exclaimed. “You have so much wisdom to share!”

How could we have forgotten such an important step in all things culinary? Face it, you can’t have stir fry unless you stir the veggies, which otherwise would simply be lounging in the sauna — er, wok! And how about all those mixes in the cupboard? Clearly stated on the back of each box is the not-so-cryptic word stir. Some of these packages go even further: the instructions on the boxes of both the instant oatmeal and the hot cocoa mix admonish us to “stir and enjoy!” (The exclamation mark is even supplied by the manufacturer.)

Our “manufacturer” (that would be God, the Creator of the Universe) gives each of us exactly the same advice: “Therefore, I remind you that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you…. For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 King James 2000)

God has given us the perfect ingredients for a great slice of life. He’s given each of us unique gifts, talents, abilities, and callings. But we must do our part if we are to enjoy what God has provided: we need to stir up the treasure poured into each of us. We stir things up spiritually by using our gifts, answering our callings, and in general, exercising our faith. When we don’t, things have a way of “settling to the bottom” of our lives. As the old expression goes, “Use it or lose it!”

Don’t be shy about using your talents and pursuing the things God has called you to do. Don’t be afraid of failure — we can learn and benefit from our own mistakes. And never fear the opinions of others! Instead, expand your horizons, stretch your spiritual wings, and follow your dreams. Be the person God designed you to be!

And don’t forget to stir your relationships — in order to properly blend together: “And we should think toward stirring up one another to love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves as is the custom with some, but encouraging one another….” (Hebrews 10:24-25 Berean Literal) In other words, hang out with other believers, people who can encourage you; and be sure to encourage them! Become a cheerleader for those who are pursuing a dream or simply trying to achieve something meaningful in life.

Especially encourage the people on “God’s team,” the believers who often struggle to live a God-centered life in order to make a difference in the lives of others through their giving and serving. Together we can bring out the best in each other.

Stir up your faith by listening to encouraging messages such as those presented on television by TBN. Have a personal time of devotion with God — and share these times with your family. And don’t forsake the assembling of God’s spiritual family. Attend a Bible-based faith community with a loving congregation; and take part in the programs and activities there. When believers live, worship, pray, and work together, they can stir their communities to become peaceful and productive places in which to live.

Please do your part. Stir up your faith, love and special gifts. When you do, you’ll create quite a stir in the world. You’ll also have the thanks and admiration of our kitchen angel, Mr. Keurig!

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