Fire in the Kitchen!

          “My oil just burst into flame! What do I do? Help! What do I do?”

          The first time a kitchen fire occurs can be terrifying. Actually, anytime it happens is scary, but the panic level escalates in proportion to the experience level.

          I’ve heard it said that mentally rehearsing an event three times gives the same benefit as experiencing it once. I’d like to tell you a story in the hopes this is true. Perhaps safely reliving my experience a few times will prepare you to handle similar experiences. If they happen. Which I hope they don’t. 🙂

          I put about a half inch of oil in a pan, lit the burner and put on the lid. I’ve done this a thousand times before. I’m not sure what was different about this time, but something made the pan burst into flame. The loose-fitting glass lid, with it’s steam vent hole was not air-tight enough to smother the fire, so the flames licked up and around the lid, reaching for the wall and cabinets.

          Would your first reaction be to throw water on that fire? Don’t! Please don’t ever throw water onto a grease fire. It will only make it worse. A lot worse. You must smother a grease fire. A fire extinguisher is preferred, bu they are not always available. (I keep a small one in my kitchen at home, but I’m renting in China now. There is no extinguisher in this house.)

          I knew the only way to put it was to smother it, so I ran to find a towel, preferably one I didn’t mind loosing if irreparably damaged. (Yes, I was still thinking that coherently.) I found one and rushed back to the kitchen to throw it over the fire. At first it looked like that would put it out, but then the flames started licking at the edges of the towel. (Panic danced through my mind, but I forced myself to ignore it.) I pulled the towel away from the flame, praying it didn’t catch fire. The towel was safe, but the fire still blazed in the pot, stretching fiery fingers up the wall. (I’m so glad the walls in this kitchen are tile-covered cement!) I tried again to cover the fire with the towel. Again, the flames sought a way around the edges. Again, I pulled away just before the towel could ignite. I did this about 4 times, with Panic screaming more insistently each time. Finally, I noticed the flames getting smaller. (And glared Panic down with that fact.) Another two towel smothers and the fire died. Whew!

          Now I could put on the vent fan and try to get rid of the smoke. (Goodness! The smoke! It filled the kitchen, laundry room and living room from ceiling to shoulders!) I’d almost turned on the vent fan while still fighting the fire. Just as I reached for it, though, I realized it would only create a draft and feed the fire. (Obviously that was before my attention was consumed with ignoring Panic.)

          If only I’d had enough presence of mind to shut the door to the kitchen. While not an air-tight seal, perhaps it would have kept most of the smoke in the kitchen and laundry room. Then again, maybe that would have been worse. I would inhaled more harmful smoke. As it was, with the smoke rising to the ceiling, I had mostly clear air to breathe while I fought the fire. Once the fire (and Panic) was driven away, my presence of mind returned and I fetched a wet hand towel to breathe through while I tackled the smoke. (A thank you nod to a favorite TV show for that tidbit of knowledge. And goodbye to any lingering guilt for wasting time watching it. 😉 )

          My stove vent fan is pretty powerful. It had the kitchen and laundry room clear of smoke long before open windows and fans cleared the rest of the house. Now off to clean up the mess. Thankfully, the walls beside the stove are tile. The smoke didn’t damage the other walls.

          I tell you this story because I realize many of my readers would have no idea how to handle a kitchen fire. I want my experience to give you the knowledge you need if you ever have to put out a kitchen fire.

          First, most important rule: NEVER, EVER, EVER throw water onto a grease/oil fire. The water will sink beneath the oil, begin to boil and create an explosion of hot oil and water. Remember: NO WATER on a kitchen fire. You must smother the fire.

          Second: Wrap a wet towel around your nose and mouth so the smoke is filtered out of the air you breathe. This will minimize, or eliminate, any harmful effects of inhaling the smoke-filled air. (And, since smoke rises, stay under the cloud of smoke as much as possible.)

          Third: Don’t panic. Panic removes your ability to think rationally. Use the adrenaline (energy) rush of panic to handle the emergency, but do not give into the emotion.

          I hope you never need this knowledge. I just as fervently hope that if you do, you remember this blog and are able to use this knowledge to kick Panic’s butt as you handle the emergency.

          Now, go read through this two more times to solidify it in your memory. 🙂

More Isaiah 40:31

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isa 40:31

          Another way of saying this is . . .

          I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10

          Along with David, . . .

          I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13-14a

          So, along with me, won’t you . . .

          Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14b

Soup’s On!

          My Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, while easy to make, needs a little more explanation. While it is extremely easy to throw together cooked chicken, chicken broth and noodles, coming up with the chicken and chicken broth is a bit harder. This is the part that scares people into thinking it is too hard. The truth is, it is not hard. You just have to know what you are doing. So let’s learn what is actually involved in cooking chicken and making chicken broth.

          The most efficient way to get chicken and chicken broth is to roast a chicken and make the broth from the drippings and carcass. It’s also the most time intensive. You have to know you want to make Chicken Noodle Soup a day or two in advance so you can roast a chicken, remove the meat and use the carcass and drippings to make the broth. This is great if you are a planner or if you have learned to make broth each time you roast a chicken and so have some in the freezer. But you probably wouldn’t be reading this how-to blog if that were the case. 🙂

Chicken Broth

          Chicken broth is made from the juices that come from cooking chicken. That’s all it is. Strained chicken flavored water. It is easily made just by boiling a piece of chicken with some vegetables, such as onions and carrots and seasonings, then straining the liquid through cheesecloth to remove all the particles. From there, you can use it for any recipe requiring water or broth, such as chicken noodle soup.

          Of course, it takes some experimentation and adjustments to get really flavorful broth, but that is all part of the learning process, which I can only teach to a certain point. 🙂 If you are interested, here’s a wonderfully detailed explanation of how to make flavorful chicken broth from a roasted chicken carcass.

          It is often easiest, though, to buy chicken bouillon or canned chicken broth. With just a twist of a lid and some water, you have all the broth you need with none of the mess. And it’s a little easier to get consistent flavor. (A little salty for my taste, but consistent.) Chicken broth can be purchased in cans or in concentrated forms of cubes, granules, or paste, all of which you reconstitute in water. I prefer the granules (they dissolve easier and taste better) or the cans (the easy-factor). Chicken broth and bouillon, also called chicken starter, can usually be found near the canned soup.

Chicken

          There are a couple of options for obtaining cooked chicken meat. As mentioned before, meat from a previous meal, such as roasted chicken, can be used. This is actually a great way to use up any leftover chicken. I regularly debone leftover chicken and put it in the freezer. Cooked chicken is the backbone of many of my easy throw-together meals.

          Another option is to buy boneless chicken breast meat, cut it up and stir-fry it. This leaves you no broth, but the chicken has more flavor. It is also the quickest way to cook chicken. The downside is that boneless chicken meat is more expensive.

Making Soup

          The easiest and fastest way to make Chicken Noodle Soup is to stir-fry or otherwise cook boneless chicken meat and add it and any vegetables desired to a broth made from canned chicken broth or bouillon.

          If you prefer to make the broth, probably the easiest and fastest way is to boil chicken pieces along with some onions, garlic, celery and carrots. Add some seasonings, such as parsley or chives. Boil this until the meat is done and the vegetables are soft. Cooking the meat this way will leach much of the flavor from the chicken, but if you are going to use this water for your broth, you’ll get the flavor in the soup.

          When the meat is cooked (about 15-20 minutes), take the meat from the pot. When cool, remove the meat from the bones. Strain the resulting broth through cheesecloth and a colander/sieve. Discard the bones and the vegetables. (If you are especially frugal, you may want to use the vegetables in your soup. I’ve found, though, that the boiling leaches all the flavor from the vegetables. I prefer to add fresh vegetables to my soup.)

Closing notes

          Both chicken broth and cooked chicken are easily stored in the freezer. I often have a pound or so of cooked chicken and some chicken broth on hand. I also keep canned broth and bouillon cubes or granules (my preference) on hand for those times my freezer is empty.

          I hope I’ve shown you that cooking chicken meat and broth can be quick and easy. As with most everything, store-bought is often easiest. Sometimes it’s also the most cost effective. Sometimes not. You have to decide what’s best for you. Usually, I’m in the “homemade’s best unless I’m in a hurry” camp. Most often I end up with a mixture of store-bought and homemade.

A Cookbook . . . of sorts

          My children are grown, on their own and struggling to set up their own schedules of life, work, play, meals, maintenance, etc. There are times I wonder if I taught them enough and worry that even if I didn’t, there’s really nothing I can do about it now. That’s why I’m thrilled to have thought of something I can do. And, in the process, probably help a lot of others, too.

          Cooking is something they did occasionally, but not often. At least not on their own. I taught them how to cook several dishes and they helped in the kitchen during their years at home, but it was never something they especially enjoyed. Even though they know more than they think they do, their confidence, and sometimes their desire, is low. Thinking the task requires more work or prep or skill than they have at the moment, they often opt for fast food, canned or boxed convenience foods or otherwise unhealthy (and expensive!) choices.

          Well I’ve decided this blog can be my cookbook lesson to them (and anyone else who wishes to read it). At least once a week, I’ll post a recipe with detailed instructions on how to prepare that dish and/or meal. Eventually, there will be a repertoire of recipes, all favorites they’ve grown up eating. I’m hoping that as they read these instructions, they’ll realize just how easily these meals can be created. Most of all, I hope they (and you) are encouraged to create more healthy and filling meals.

          My first recipe, Chicken Noodle Soup, is below.

          Chicken Noodle Soup can be one of the easiest things to make. It can be made completely with store-bought ingredients or a combination of store-bought and homemade. The homemade version takes longer, requires more steps and may seem too difficult. In reality, though, it is very simple, only time-intensive. I’ll give instructions for the homemade version in a different post.

          You will need at a minimum chicken meat, chicken broth and egg noodles. If you want to add other ingredients, such as celery, onions, carrots, you may add them, but the only true requirement is the chicken, the chicken broth and the noodles. Bear that in mind as you read the following ingredient list and instructions.

          Also bear in mind that all seasoning suggestions are just that, suggestions. I rarely measure and even when I do, I end up adding a pinch or two extra as I taste and adjust. This goes for the store-bought broth, too. Add water to dilute to the taste you want. (I always dilute it to diminish the saltiness.)

Chicken Noodle Soup
For a pot of 6-8 servings.

  • 1 gallon chicken broth/water
  • 1-2 cups chopped cooked chicken meat
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ tsp garlic seasoning
  • 1 tsp parsley and/or chives
  • ½ tsp spaghetti seasoning (optional, you may want to experiment with this)
  • 1 pound egg noodles
  1. Put all ingredients except noodles into a large saucepan or soup pot. Bring broth to a boil. (Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.)
  2. Add noodles. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the noodles are fork-tender. (Which just means you can cut through them with a fork.)
  3. Remove from heat. (This is important. The longer you cook it, the softer the noodles become. Once the noodles are cooked, or almost cooked, remove from heat and cool. This will keep the noodles from overcooking.) If you are not going to eat it right away, put the pot in the refrigerator and heat up what you want a bowl at a time.

          See? Simple. The hardest part is gathering the ingredients. (Which I’ll discuss in more depth in my next post.)

Meditation Meander Isaiah 40:31

          My latest meander found me considering this verse . . .

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.Isa 40:31

          Many years ago I listened to someone teach on this verse. He pointed out that the word “wait” in the original language is not a passive verb. It is active, much as it is when referring to a server “waiting” on a customer. So in reality, that verse in Isaiah is really saying something like Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

         The Lord Christ who also said . . .

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Mt 11:28

         Are you actively working, waiting and finding rest?

Happy New Year?

          Happy New Year!

          No, I’m not a month late. It really is the new year. Chinese New Year, that is. 🙂

          This is the first Chinese New Year I’ve experienced. It’s sort of a lonely time for a foreigner, but an interesting one. All the Chinese have gone to visit family and all the shops and restaurants are closed. Crowds and traffic, which were at all-time highs the past two weeks have dwindled to almost nothing. I’d think the city was deserted if it wasn’t for the continuous fireworks and firecrackers.

          Chinese New Year is the major holiday of the year. Very much like our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, it is a time to reconnect with loved ones, share large meals and give gifts of money and good wishes to the younger members of the family. Like the January 1st New Year, the Chinese New Year is a time to look back and to look forward, with an emphasis on the new year. Schools end a semester before the holiday and begin another after. Families visit older members during this time as well as tending to the graves of passed loved ones. Various traditions are observed to increase good luck and prosperity.

          One such tradition (which this housework-hater loves) says all brooms must be put away and not used on New Year’s Day lest the good fortune of the year be swept out. After the 1st day, the dirt and dust may be swept inward, away from the front door, and left in a corner. It should not be removed until after the 5th day and should never be swept out the front door, but only carried out the back. I’m not sure how I’m going to accomplish that last. We only have one door. 🙂

          Here are a few sites to explore if you are interested in learning more about Chinese New Year.

          http://www.guy-sports.com/humor/christmas/chinese_new_year2011.htm

          http://education2.uvic.ca/Faculty/mroth/438/CHINA/chinese_new_year.html

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year

          So . . . Happy New Year!

Fear of the Lord?

          Isaiah 33:6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

          The key. The fear of the Lord. The key that opens the door to wisdom and knowledge and salvation.

          If the fear of the Lord is the key, I should know what is the fear of the Lord. What does it mean to fear the Lord? Am I to tremble and dread Him? I can’t believe that. That goes against everything else the Bible teaches. True fear of the Lord may contain some portion of dread, just as a misbehaving child might dread their loving father, but that is an incomplete definition of the fear of the Lord. It does not convey the true character and characteristics of my Living Lord.

          Ps 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

          1Jo 4:8 . . . because God is love.

          1Jo 4:16 . . . God is love. . .

          Ps 116:5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

          Da 9:9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving . .

          Da 9:14 . . .the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; . . .

          De 4:31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God; . . .

          2Ch 19:7 . . . for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.”

          Ps 147:11 the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

          These verses reveal God as abounding in love and justice and righteousness. Mercy, compassion and justice are not attributes that usually inspire fear and trembling and dread.

          So? What is the fear of the Lord?

          Pr 8:13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; . . .

          Job 28:28 . . . ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’”

Meditation Meander 2011: Isaiah 33:6

          Isaiah 33:6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

          He is a sure foundation. He is the sure foundation for my time. He is the sure foundation for my time. I can safely put my trust in Him and His teachings.

          He is a rich store of treasure: wisdom, knowledge, salvation. When I learn about Him and from Him, I find treasure, real treasure. I discover knowledge of so many things, wisdom to understand and use that knowledge appropriately and, best of all, I find salvation. (And because of the knowledge and wisdom I find, I understand what that means and how precious a gift is that salvation.)

          He is my sure foundation. Is He yours?

Meditation Meander

          My last post talked about meditating on God’s Word. What exactly does that mean?

          All About Spirituality.org has a detailed definition of meditation and various ways it has been practiced in different cultures. In fact, All About Spirituality.org has a lot of information about many things related to spirituality. Each article gives plenty of information and continually leads back to the truth that true spirituality comes from a relationship with the Lord Jesus. I recommend this site if you want to explore the meaning of true spirituality.

          Back to biblical meditation. What is it? Short answer: focused thinking about what the passage teaches and how it applies to my life.

          I’m renewing the habit of meditation and would like you to join me. I’m calling it a Meditation Meander. That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? If meditation is focused attention, how can you meander through it? Meander seems to indicate an aimless wandering.

          But consider: A meandering trail is much longer than a trail straight from point A to point B. A meandering walk through the forest gives a person maximum time in that forest. Time to enjoy the sights and sounds and smells of the forest. Time to see and experience details that would be missed during a more purposeful journey. Time to really get to know the forest. A meandering walk is a walk whose focus in not on destination but on experienced moments.

          Meditation Meander. A journey through Scripture; a focus on Scripture’s Author.

          Each week (or so), I’ll chose a verse or short passage. First I will memorize it (or re-memorize, if I already know it). Throughout the week, I will consider what it means and how it can be applied to my life. I will also search my Lord’s Word for other verses that teach the same truth. This is a huge task. There are sure to be multitudes of verses that touch on at least one aspect of my target verse. Obviously I won’t be able to exhaust that search. I’m not even going to try. That’s not the goal. The goal is to meander through His Word, to investigate and discover His teachings, to immerse myself in His truths and to delight in Him.

          I’d love for you to join me. I’ll post my focus verse each week. Sometime during the week, I will post few of the similar verses I’ve discovered and any thoughts that have occurred during my meditations. Feel free to tell me about any verses or insights you glean as you meander through His Word.