Celebrations Reflections

The Most Divine Recipes

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my faithful and fun Back Porch friends! Many of you may remember a post I wrote last summer where I told y’all I was struggling in the kitchen. Baking in my new high-elevation home was not going according to plan.

My most divine recipes were not working. I wish I had taken photos of some of the epic failures so you could feel the heartbreak with me. They didn’t look appetizing, smell enticing, or taste right.

A few fun facts about altitude:

Did you know the boiling temperature of water is different in the mountains? Or that thinner air causes bakery items to rise more quickly? (And subsequently fall dramatically?) After wasting time and ingredients, I turned to the internet for suggestions.

I experimented to no avail. Eventually I reached out to you all to see if you had any tried-and-true high-altitude recipes for baked goods. I didn’t receive any which, on hindsight, makes sense because most people live closer to sea level.

Platers full of muffins and green embellishments.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! My zucchini bread turns out amazing in lower elevations. If anyone is interested in this passed down family recipe, let me know. (Photo taken a few years ago.)

I finally broke down and bought a high-altitude cookbook. And let me tell you – it has been a godsend! My first bite into a soft, moist, sweet blueberry muffin nearly made me cry. I had feared I’d have to grow accustomed to dry, crumbly, volcano-shaped baked goods for as long as I lived here.

The new divine recipes made me think.

The right recipes for my location made all the difference. I’m sure if I took my new high-elevation cooking instructions and tried them at sea level, it would be a whole other kind of disaster. (Is it strange that I want to try, just to see what sort of chaos it would create?)

But here is what I realized –

Sometimes I try the wrong recipes for my appetites outside of the kitchen as well. I want to satisfy cravings in other areas of my life. I desire some of the sweet stuff I see other people enjoying.

It is typically success of some kind. Accolades, money, adoration, beauty… these things call to me more often than I’d like. I apply my own recipes, attempting to cook up what I want.

The problem is, while recipes for such treats work for some people, in some places, they might not be correct for me, where I am. All they produce for me is a dry and crumbling mess that barely resembles anything I was working for. In a word, disappointment.

God has the most divine recipes.

But do you know what? God has a plan for me. He has a recipe, if you will, laid out for my life. He has already done the calculations, and it is right for who, where, and how He has me.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’.”

Jeremiah 29:11, 12

If I submit to His recipe, He will ensure I am baked to perfection. I will turn out exactly as He plans. When the timer goes off on my life, He will take me out of this oven I’m in (we all feel the heat, right?) and add the final touches to present me, faultless, to God our Father.

“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.”

Hebrews 10:14

5 reasons God’s recipes are the most divine:

Just like my high-altitude cookbook has recipes for the height at which I live, Jesus calls me to live higher. His instructions meet me there. If I adhere to His recipe for my life,

1. I will not fall.

    “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

    Psalm 37:23, 24

    2. I will not boil over.

    “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

    Isaiah 26:3

    3. I will not be dry.

    “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

    John 7:38

    4. I will not burn (out.)

    “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had…”

    Isaiah 43:1, 2

    5. I will not be disappointed (or disappointing).

    “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

    Romans 8:28

    “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

    Psalm 32:8

    My dear friend, for what are you striving? Do your efforts continue to fall flat? Maybe the recipes you’re following are not right for you.

    Will you join me today in asking God for, and applying to our lives, His most Divine recipes?

    “The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.”

    Psalm 33:11

    Have You Ever Experienced a Chocolate Walk?

    How far could you walk if you got a bite of chocolate every few yards? My husband and I could walk miles! We know because we participated in our town’s Chocolate Walk last weekend.

    What is a Chocolate Walk? It is the cutest small town, hallmark movie-type event I have ever experienced! What a fun thing to do the Saturday before Valentine’s Day!

    Our Chocolate Walk Experience

    We purchased passports at our town’s Visitor Center last week. The $8.00 cost was a donation to the food bank. Our passports listed a total of 26 participating, locally owned, downtown businesses within walking distance of each other. The promise was that each would have free chocolate for passport holders on Saturday afternoon.

    On that sweet day, we woke up to nice weather and my husband’s new hip (replaced only a month ago) was feeling good. We decided to walk the few miles to downtown. Once there, we pulled out our passports and planned our route.

    It was a chocolate lover’s dream! We visited the bakery and an espresso spot in our first few stops. One would expect to find yummy treats in such establishments, right? Right! The bakery gave away brownie bites and the espresso spot had charcoal infused mochas. Both were delicious!

    Brownie bites
    Brownie bites with chocolate ganache from the downtown bakery.

    All kinds of businesses got in on the fun. The Outdoor Surplus shop gave away samples of chocolatey energy bars. The library, fashion boutique, art gallery, and bookstore were all stops on our passports.

    The Vintage Clothing store staff went the extra mile and dressed up as the characters from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The Mercantile offered freeze dried Snicker Bars. Yum!

    Trays of chocolate on a store counter.
    The vintage clothing store with its staff in character.
    Plates of treats on a store counter
    Freeze dried snickers bars!

    The tea leaf shop offered sips of specially made cocoa tea with a healthy mushroom and chili pepper infusion. My husband liked that more than I did. We both enjoyed the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the olive oil shop.

    Tiny cups of tea
    Cocoa tea tasters
    Small cups of balsamic vinegar
    Dark Chocolate infused Balsamic Vinegar!

    One of our favorite delicatessens made mini chocolate mousse cups and a local pub offered tiny chocolate milkshakes. We wondered if we were going to feel sick with so many sweet stops, but the tastes were small, and we shared many of them.

    A tiny mousse cup
    A tiny mousse cup from the local deli has layers of chocolate and white chocolate. The tiny spoon made it even more fun! (My husband’s hand and the passport included for size reference.)

    We didn’t eat everything we were given. Many chocolates were individually wrapped, and we took those for later. In fact, we still have several in our candy dish!

    Once we had visited all the stops, our last order of business was to note our favorite and turn our completely stamped passports in to the Visitor Center. I hope the winners got something good because there was one passport stop whose offering stood far and above all the others, in our opinion.

    The wine bar gave out chef-made caramels infused with Tempranillo and cocoa. It was absolutely the most delicious thing! It was also incredibly unique. I have never tasted anything like it.

    Paper wrapped candy and a chalk board.
    Our favorite chocolate and our vote for the grand prize winner!

    This event was a blast! It gave us a reason to enter and meet the proprietors of many establishments we might not otherwise frequent. There was a spirit of palpable fun in the air; people walking, mingling, enjoying the outdoors, eating chocolate, deferring to, and smiling at each other.

    We walked a total of 7.7 miles to, around, and home from downtown. I may have burned even more calories than I ate. And it was so much fun!

    This was our town’s 7th Annual Chocolate Walk. I am already looking forward to the 8th. Have you ever experienced anything like a Chocolate Walk?


    The Thing about Making Memories is…

    • “We’re making memories together.”
    • “Our plan is just to make some memories.”
    • “We made some amazing memories this week.”

    The thing about making memories is, they take time to prove.

    Have you said anything like the above remarks recently? Making memories has become a common pastime description. But the thing about making memories is, you can’t measure your success in the present. By nature, a memory has to be remembered in time.

    mem·o·ry: noun

    something remembered from the past; a recollection.

      So, I’m wondering, can anyone say with certainty that they’ve made a memory? Is it a valid agenda to embark upon? Or is it a trendy phrase we use without thinking?

      The thing about making memories is, they are relatively few.

      “What you relish about a meal is more than just the food. It’s about being fully present, surrendering to the moment, and letting the warmth of the candles, the scent of seared meats, and crusty bread expand your soul.”

      Cheryl Loreglia, Living in the Gap

      I read this sentence in a blog post by Cheryl Loreglia called What Does Our Time On This Earth Add Up To. She was describing a meal she shared with her family on a vacation in Portugal. She also said, “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.”

      And my mind has been buzzing ever since. (Thank you, Cheryl, for the food for thought!) What has been the favorite meal of my life? To be honest, I remember very few.

      I’ve been married for 31 years. (Our Anniversary was this week!) In that time, my husband and I have raised 5 kids, fed church groups full of people, welcomed 3 grandkids, and hosted many gatherings in our home.

      I have prepared and eaten countless meals with incredibly special-to-us people. And yet I don’t recall many of them. Time has proven which were memories made and which weren’t.

      I thought for a while about which meal I would look back on today as my “all-time favorite”. To be honest, it took me a minute to recall any which do not have videos or pictures associated with them. I decided it would be cheating to lean on recurring reminders to help me remember.

      But in time, I was able to identify 5 favorite meals which qualify as true memories. Each of them is memorable because of what I was feeling when I ate them. I thought that was interesting. It wasn’t about the place, the food, or even the company.

      The thing about making memories is, they’re subjective.

      I asked my husband about one of these meals. I wanted to see if he remembered it the way I did. He didn’t remember it at all!

      He spoke of something he remembered. It sounded only vaguely familiar to me. Our memories of things experienced together were certainly subjective.

      So then I wonder, is it really a memory made if not everyone remembers it? When we set out to “make memories,” don’t we intend for everyone present to share it? Don’t we expect to have inside jokes about it for years to come?

      The thing about making memories is, we must live them first.

      Maybe making memories requires more of us than fully reveling in our experiences. Maybe we need to engage our senses to revisit those experiences often. Maybe we should capture everything on film (eyes) and reminisce details (ears) at every opportunity.

      But then, don’t we miss out on the full experience because we are simultaneously trying to immortalize it? Don’t we become spectators more than participants when we partake from behind the camera? The thing about memories is you must live them before you can relive them.

      The thing about making memories is, I’m intrigued.

      What do you think? Is it possible to plan to make memories? Would you say your memories are forged more by emotion or your five physical senses? Do you recall your favorite meal? Please tell me about it!

      I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. The thing about memories is it makes for an intriguing topic. There is probably good science behind it, but I’m more interested in the human aspect. Please comment below! Share a memory and tell me why you think you remember it so vividly.

      Conversations Recommendations

      A Wonderful Winter Recipe Share!

      Hello! Thanks for stopping by the Back Porch today. I’m grateful for your company! I would like to propose a recipe share to accompany this wonderful winter season we’re enjoying.

      Our Wonderful Winter

      This is our first winter in Northern Arizona, but our neighbors tell us we’ve had an unusual amount of snow. We’ve gotten something like 60 inches in the last two weeks. It is beautiful! I have only 2 complaints.

      1. It makes my daily trail walks all but impossible.
      2. It started 2 days after my husband’s hip replacement surgery, leaving shoveling duty to my son and me.

      I must say, though, snowy weather is great for cooking and baking. And I’ve been doing a lot of that! So, I also have to say I’m grateful for shoveling duty, because it is a fabulous calorie burner while the trail walks are on hold.

      A Recipe Share

      This is where a wonderful winter recipe share comes in. What are you eating these days? Do you have any nutritious recipes to share? Could you use a few?

      My hubby likes to base his diet on protein. I prefer to center mine on plants. Because we’re incredibly creative (read the sarcasm), we’ve dubbed our eating habits “Protein and Plants”. It works. At least it reminds me where to focus when I’m at the grocery store. We both also eat carbs, dairy, and fats; we just try not to make them the stars of our plates.

      What do you think? Do you have any recipes I can try? Would you be willing to share?

      Here is one of our favorites that you might enjoy. It’s quick, simple, and healthy to boot!

      Chicken, Mushroom, and Asparagus Stir Fry

      Servings: 8


      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 2 pounds boneless chicken, sliced
      • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
      • 1 large onion, wedged
      • 16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
      • 1/2 cup water
      • 1 cup stir-fry sauce
      • 1/2 cup oyster sauce


      1. In a skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add chicken strips; stir fry 5-6 minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken from the pan.
      2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add asparagus, and onion; stir fry for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms; stir fry 3 minutes longer. Add water; cover and steam for 2-3 minutes or until asparagus is tender.
      3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix stir-fry sauce and oyster sauce. Return the chicken to the wok and add the sauce mixture. Stir fry for about 1 minute longer or until hot.
      4. Serve with hot rice, or on a bed of greens.

      Note: You can substitute any other veggies that you like and have on hand. Feel free to be creative with the protein too!

      If you have a recipe for me to try, please share! I would love to use it for two purposes – to pray for you as I prepare it, and to nourish my family this wonderful winter. Please, paste one in the comments, or provide a link if you’ve already shared it. If you aren’t excited about posting it publicly, but are willing to email it privately, use my contact button at the top of the page.

      Thank you! I appreciate you. Seriously – whether you have a recipe to share or not, I appreciate you for being here, for reading, and for being a present blessing to the Back Porch! Have a great day!


      Bad Company Corrupts Good… Meatballs?

      Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

      1 Corinthians 15:33

      The other day I realized I had teriyaki meatballs in the fridge that needed to be cooked. I had purchased them at Costco, in a two-pack. One package had been opened, and a few prepared. But their “sell by” date was nearing, so I wanted to cook all that were left.

      I smelled something funny as I put them on the baking sheet. I had a passing notion the remaining meatballs in the opened package may have spoiled. But I was in a hurry, and only paid partial attention.

      When the timer went off, I prepared my plate. I had 5 meatballs, rice, and salad. I cut all the meatballs in half and mixed them with my rice. Every now and then, I tasted something off. I wished I had thrown out the opened package and not cooked them with the rest.

      I did remember, though, that when I put all the meatballs on the baking pan, the ones from the opened package were on the right. I’d poured those from the other package on the left side of the pan.

      I didn’t know exactly where the line of delineation was. So, when I went to save the leftovers, I only scooped the ones from the far left. Anything too close to the right side was suspect to me and I tossed it out with those which were surely bad.

      The words “Bad company corrupts good meatballs.” popped into my head. I asked God why? It wasn’t any fault of the good meatballs that they’d landed near the bad ones. And if we were talking about people, aren’t we supposed to mix with those who need to be saved?

      God helped me understand the point. I couldn’t tell which meatballs were which. So, I had to throw out all that were near where I knew the bad ones to be.

      Do people look at me and find me so in step with the unsaved that I don’t stand out as clearly different?? If it isn’t obvious which side I’m on, my morals are suspect. Even if I haven’t been corrupted deep inside, I may appear to have been.

      “Abstain from all appearance of evil. Now may the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

      1 Thessalonian 5:22, 23

      Meatball puns are good, and this one made me chuckle. It seemed to pop out of nowhere, but I knew better. This was the Holy Spirit ministering truth to me from a verse I’d memorized long ago.

      How about you? If someone, who didn’t know you, observed you with your unsaved friends and neighbors, could they tell you were different? If there is a line between good and bad morals, how close do you sit? Has bad company caused you, like some of my meatballs, to be disregarded and your potential discarded by someone who can’t distinguish you from the others?

      Lord, I pray that you will keep your kids set apart. May we be in the world, but the world not be in us. As we model your love and interact with unbelievers, let us be filled with such light that everyone knows who’s side we’re on. All for your glory, Amen.

      “Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

      Matthew 5:16
      Celebrations Recommendations

      Avoid Last-Minute Holiday Stress with a Sweet of the Season

      Does the word Christmas elicit warm feelings of love and laughter? Or are you instantly reminded of stressful holiday chores and feelings of inadequacy? For many years, I wondered why I couldn’t pull it all off with joy.

      I’m still working on it, to be frank. But I have discovered some tricks which have really helped me maintain my sanity. One of my secrets is the Present Box. Another of the best ideas I’ve tried is “a sweet of the season”.

      What is a Sweet of the Season

      Homemade treats are always popular during the holidays. Whether you get hit up for a last-minute bake sale or receive unexpected visitors, having a pre-decided sweet of the season can save you from bitterness. Simply purchase one set of ingredients and put them together on one day to be prepared the whole season long.

      My recipe for Crock Pot Candy is perfect! It makes a ton and saves for a long time. A couple of hours at the beginning of the season and you’ll be prepared for whatever arises.

      Another recipe I often use for my sweet of the season is Slice and Bake Butter Shortbread. I double or even triple this recipe, which has been passed down through through generations of my family. The dough can be made into cookie cutter shapes, pressed designs or slice and bake logs, as in the instructions below.

      Slice and Bake Butter Shortbread

      • 1 and 1/2 cups butter
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 1 egg
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
      • 4 cups flour
      • 1 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1 cup of sprinkles
      • plastic wrap
      1. Thoroughly cream butter and sugar.
      2. Add egg, vanilla and/or almond extract.
      3. Add flour and baking powder (sift if you like)
      4. Mix until smooth. Do not chill.
      5. Roll dough into a log approximately 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter.
      6. Spread sprinkles on a cutting board and roll log over them, starting at one edge of the cutting board and rolling to the other edge.
      7. Roll back and forth until the entire log is coated with sprinkles.
      8. Wrap sprinkled dough log in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. This log will easily keep for a couple of weeks, or can be frozen and kept longer.
      • You now have festive, homemade slice and bake cookies ready to be served fresh and warm at a moment’s notice.
      • They can be baked, as needed, in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
      • These cookies are not overly sweet. If you prefer more sweetness, sugar the surface of the cookies before baking or frost them when they come out of the oven.
      • I make this frosting (below) when I make the dough and keep it at the ready alongside my slice and bake log:
      • 3 Cups powdered sugar
      • 1/3 cup butter, softened
      • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
      • 2 tablespoons milk, approximately (Using an alternative milk might extend the fridge-life of the frosting. Make sure to check the date on the carton)
      1. Mix powdered sugar and softened butter until it forms a powdery paste. Add vanilla and then milk. Stir to a spreadable consistency. Add milk a tiny bit at a time, if you need more, to make the frosting to your desired thickness.
      2. This frosting can be colored but be aware that liquid food coloring will add moisture and you might need less milk.

      If you’re too busy and/or not the baker type, by all means, purchase the cookie dough. Whether you buy it or make it, whatever you don’t use can also be frozen for a few months, if it is wrapped well.

      Pro-tip: If you make the Slice and Bake Butter Shortbread, consider rolling some in red sprinkles only. That way, anything unused can be frozen and on-hand for Valentine’s Day.

      “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

      Psalm 32:11

      I appreciate any workable ideas that simplify my Christmas chores and give me time to celebrate joy. A sweet of the season has helped me avoid last-minute holiday stress for many years. Have you ever done something similar?

      Let’s brainstorm together! What recipe would you use if you were to try this idea? Or what pre-made item would you buy to have on hand?