Entertaining during Thanksgiving and Christmas can be stressful but a lot of pressure can be eliminated with a little planning and by keeping our daily focus on Jesus’ command to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Here are a few tips to get organized and prepared so we’ll have room to do what Jesus calls us to do.

Plan Ahead

After your guest list has been decided, settle on your menu. Once your menu is set, make a list of all the ingredients you need at the grocery store or farmer’s market, as well as which stores you’ll need to visit. Pro tip: the holidays are not the time to try out a new grocery store. Stick to what you know or you’ll be wandering the aisles frustrated that you can’t find the vanilla extract or chopped pecans. This will put you in a very bad mood, and you can’t be in a bad mood when you’re about to possibly encounter sometimes-challenging relatives you haven’t seen in a year (we’ll get to relatives in a moment). While you’re shopping, cooking, and cleaning, pray as you go. Thanking the Lord for His many blessings and praying specifically for those you’ll be encountering is a great way to prepare your heart.

Do As Much As You Can Ahead Of Time

After you’ve bought your ingredients, whatever you can make ahead of time, make it. If you’re serving a salad, have your vegetables chopped, nuts toasted, dressing made and stored appropriately. If you have casseroles that can be chilled in the fridge, make them a day or two before. Appetizers like a charcuterie board can be put together ahead of time as well. Have your bread sliced, asparagus trimmed, lemons squeezed beforehand—you get the idea. Also, clean as you go. There’s nothing like waking up to a spotless kitchen on the day you’re hosting a large meal or party. Instead of running from room to room with your hair on fire, you’ll be able to enjoy your guests. You’ll have the capacity to ask good questions, listen, and watch for opportunities the Holy Spirit gives you to encourage or pray for someone who needs it.


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Every year I have this ideal that I want my guests to be able to simply show up and not have to do a thing. But the older I get and the more people I host, the more unrealistic this becomes. Friends and relatives really are happy to bring their specialty dessert, or pick up that artisan loaf of bread, or come with an overflowing bowl of salad. I find that for every dish or drink that someone else handles, a surprising amount of pressure is taken off on the big day. When others pitch in not only are you, as the host, more at ease but also more people get to share in having a part in the celebration.

It’s Not Your Responsibility To Fix Your Relatives

If your guest list happens to include difficult or awkward relatives, it’s freeing to remember that it’s not your responsibility to fix them. I know what you’re thinking… but I know exactly what’s wrong with them and have so many good ideas! Let Jesus decide what He wants to do with those great ideas and then ask Him to help you walk out the gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness… (Galatians 5:22-23). Think of how less stressed you’ll be if you don’t task yourself with having to change all your loved ones over Christmas. This is very freeing news. The day may come when you have to gently confront a loved one, or deal with a perpetually difficult problem. But the holiday season typically isn’t the time to try to solve decades-old issues. Throw off the responsibility of having to fix everyone, pray, and pick up a piece of pumpkin pie. You’ll thank me for this one.

Focus on What’s Right This Year

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Every holiday season has a cultural ideal that none of our holiday experiences can live up to. Our Thanksgivings and Christmases will never totally measure up to the standard we read about in books or see in the movies. Someone or something will always be missing. Disappointments will happen. But make a decision to focus on what is right this year. Be intentional to thank God for who is present with you, for who He is, and for all the blessings He’s given you. A thankful heart will be a salve for whatever disappointments linger. With a little planning ahead, a few people to help, some delicious recipes, your loved ones around you, and most importantly, the presence of Christ Himself, this holiday season is sure to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Check out Kelly’s New Cookbook, A Place at the Table.

The post Holiday Hosting Hacks That Free You to Serve appeared first on LifeWay Voices.

My Perfect Night: 15 Ideas for the Table (Plus a 15 Bean Soup Recipe)

My Perfect Night: 15 Ideas for the Table (Plus a 15 Bean Soup Recipe)

If I could distill my perfect night, it would include being around the dinner table with family and friends, eating something homemade. In homage to a hearty winter 15 Bean Soup that my mom recently served me, here’s 15 things I’ve learned about life around the table. (Recipe provided at the bottom of this post.)

#1 You don’t have to be fancy to have people over. Cook and they will come.

#2 Cook seasonally when you can. Fruits and vegetables that are in season will taste better, potentially provide more nutrition, and disappear more quickly from your guests’ plates. For instance, no one wants 15 Bean Soup in July (except me, maybe). But in sub-freezing temperatures, it hits the mark.

#3 Your house doesn’t have to be perfect. I try to have my house mostly in order when I invite people over so they can unwind in a clear and uncluttered space. But I fight the temptation to have everything perfect. Otherwise, I’d hardly ever entertain.

 #4 You don’t have to spend a lot of money. I love soups specifically for this reason. You can feed a lot of people for a minimal investment. Recipes based on basic staples like pastas, grains, beans, and vegetables can go a long way for a little amount.

#5 Cook what you know. Bring your signature dish or your mom’s specialty from your childhood. People love consuming the food that’s part of your story and tradition.

#6 Invest in a collection of bowls, dishes, and platters (over time). This doesn’t mean you have to collect expensive or fancy items. Just go with a theme you love and build on it. For instance, a few years ago I found some clearance Williams & Sonoma napkins. I use them when I’m serving my nieces and nephews frozen pizzas or setting the table for a fancy dinner party with adult guests. When people see those napkins, they know they’re at my house.

#7 Ask people to bring stuff! People are almost always happy to help. Tell them what you need to take the pressure off… cheese, crackers, drinks, a salad, dessert. Eliminating an item or two will make all the difference for you as the host.

#8 Be intentional. I can’t tell you how many times in a week I have the thought, I really need to have him/her/them over. And then 8 months go by. Put a night on your calendar and make it happen. Even if you have to schedule it 2 months out, it will be here before you know it.

 #9 But know you can be last minute, too. The other day a friend of mine told me I needed to create an app that alerts my community whenever I’ve made a soup so they know to head over. Too bad I have zero tech skills. The point is, you don’t always have to plan a dinner party days out. A last minute invitation can be just the cure for friends experiencing a lonely or quiet night in.

#10 For fancier dinners, decorate classy but inexpensive. A few good Ball Jars filled with fresh cut flowers still does the trick—especially if one of your friends has an eye for arranging. My sister in-law is the best at this, so I always tap her to put the table together for fancier get-togethers. And on my own, even I can’t mess up a fresh flower.

#11 Takeout is allowed (just not all the time). A few weeks ago, I asked my brother’s family over for dinner. I had sublime intentions of making it to the grocery store and spending a couple leisurely hours chopping, sautéing and listening to Frank Sinatra. And then life happened. So I ordered burgers and fries for everyone. And it was altogether lovely.

#12. Cook what’s already in your fridge and pantry. You’d be surprised at what you can put together with that frozen pound of meat in the fridge, half package of pasta with a rubber band around it in the pantry, and that 28 oz. can of tomato sauce in your Lazy Susan. Jump online and Google recipes with the ingredients you already have.

#13. Keep good coffee and tea on hand. Whether someone’s just stopping by or I need something for after dinner, I always keep coffee and tea on hand. I have a tea and sugar set I love, along with an assortment of mugs and stirring spoons I’ve collected over the years. Presentation goes a long way with guests, and it’s easy to execute with a few economical pieces.

#14. Reserve a treat drawer for kids. Okay, I’m stretching here near the end. Right now I’m wishing my mom had made 7 Bean Soup instead of 15. At any rate, I actually do have a little wicker basket that I keep treats, snacks, and candies in for when little ones come to my house. They know right where it is. I keep it at their level. They love me for it.

#15. Learn a new dish in the new year! I tend to fall back on my old standbys, but last year I made an Indian dish in my crockpot and tried it out on some family and friends. It was a hit! I learned how to use spices I don’t normally use like saffron, cardamom and garam masala, and I opened myself up to a host of other recipes I want to try.

15 Bean Soup Recipe

My mom always has something bubbling on the stove or baking in the oven. As a result, she has a lot of kids and grandkids who have become expert grazers. The basic problem for her is that she’s set the bar high and now we expect her to perform. Every. Year. She’s getting a little tired, and we don’t really care. We can’t help it—she’s created food dependents.

This year, she threw together a 15 Bean Soup that we downed like Winter Olympic champions. This soup is easy to make, nourishing, and hearty—if you’re going to serve a soup in the thick of winter, don’t ladle into people’s bowls anything less than hearty. Winter is not the time to go meager on people. Check out the ingredients and steps below.

15 Bean Soup Recipe

Download the recipe here.

As we go into a new year, I’m so thankful that we see calls to hospitality in some of the New Testament letters. I believe cooking, eating, and communing together is near to the heart of Christ. So let’s get cooking.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I believe eating and communing together is near to the heart of Christ. So let’s get cooking.” quote=”I believe cooking, eating, and communing together is near to the heart of Christ. So let’s get cooking.”]



The Minter Kitchen Recipe Contest

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The Minter Kitchen Recipe Contest

When I wrote my first Bible study, No Other gods, I needed a few girls to give me feedback on the study. I figured there was a better chance of them accepting if I lured them with dinner (which I’m not so sure was much of a lure back then). What transpired was each of us taking turns cooking and hosting, bringing some of our favorite recipes to the table, many of which found their way into the Bible study. I discovered that cooking and eating together, in some strangely powerful way, helped us share more honestly, laugh more deeply and open up about how God was working in our hearts. To this day, nothing delights me more than fellowship over a meal.

Over the years I’ve heard from many of you who have cooked the recipes from the studies and shared them in your homes or churches. For the most part the feedback has been good – a few of you really don’t like cilantro, which I’ve noted. My wonderful publisher, Lifeway, and I thought it would be fun to give you a chance to add your recipes to the mix, especially since I quite frankly am running out of ideas. We’d absolutely love for you to be a part of this fun contest—who knows, several of us may be spearing our forks into one of your amazing creations one day soon. Check out the contest details below and scroll down to submit your recipe!
~ Kelly

Submission Guidelines:

–Recipes perfect for making and serving to small groups (or hosting Bible studies!

–Recipes must be original and not copyright

–Recipes must include mostly fresh and/or whole ingredients. (We’re trying to stay away from heavily processed or preserved items or things that can live in a can for more than 37 years.) For desserts, this is a little more challenging, but try to think on the healthier or whole-foods side of things. (Chocolate is absolutely a whole food.) Be creative!

–Please categorize your recipe as either a: main dish, side dish, salad, dessert, or miscellaneous/snack

–Please include (about) 3 sentences describing your recipe, its history and/or why it’s special to you.


Winners will receive these fun prizes listed below and will be chosen at random and notified by email.
–1 Kelly Minter “What Love Is” Bible Study Leader Kit
–1 copy of Kelly’s new trade book “Wherever The River Runs”
–A handwritten note from Kelly
–Some winning recipes may be used in on of Kelly’s Bible studies or featured in future editions of “The Minter Kitchen” on The Lifeway Women Blog and Newsletter.

Rules & Regulations:

By entering today’s giveaway, you acknowledge the official promotion rules of Kelly Minter LLC, and LifeWay Christian Resources. This giveaway starts Tuesday, May 13, (5/13/14) at 12:01 AM and ends Friday, May 23rd (5/23/14) at 11:59 p.m. CST. You must be 18 to enter, and you may only enter once per category. The winner/s will be selected at random. Participation in contest and submission of each recipe gives LifeWay Christian Resources and Kelly Minter to print the recipe in publications or online. For questions about the rules and regulations of this giveaway, please contact Bethany Bordeaux at Kelly Minter, LLC, PO Box 41763, Nashville TN 37204. For our complete list of rules and regulations, you can CLICK HERE to read all “the fine print.”


Homemade Chicken Stock

Homemade chicken soup with fresh pico de gallo and avocado

Okay gang. It’s fall and if your region of the country is cooperating there should be burnt colored leaves sailing to the ground on the wings of a chilly breeze. You should have had your first pumpkin spice latte. A bite of something orange. Hopefully you’ve pulled out recipes with award-winning appearances from some of autumn’s all-stars like nutmeg and cinnamon. And if you’re anything like me, despite the unseasonably warm weather, you’ve started making soup. In my opinion, at the pinnacle of pumpkin patches, hayrides, and brisk morning walks perches soup in all its glory.

Now there are a zillion soup recipes out there: Butternut squash, bean and kale, tortilla, chicken noodle, vegetable, split pea, tomato basil, and so on. But if you really want to do any of these soups right, you’ve got to start with a good stock. If soup were an outfit, the stock would not be the belt, boots or dazzling hat – it would be the jeans. The very foundation for the whole shebang. Without great stock, you can’t have great soup. It’s that simple. And the great part is, you don’t have to spend a fortune on it. In fact, when you make your own chicken stock you should save money in the long run while getting a much healthier and flavorful product. Not to mention, your house will smell storybook charming.

Here’s how I’ve been making mine: First, if you’ve got a farmer’s market or local meat seller anywhere near you, ask your farmer for the parts of a chicken that are good for making stock. I know there are more appetizing things than asking for chicken parts, but this is where you save your money while still getting everything you need: necks, backs, legs, feet (I’ve never used feet myself, but I hear there’s a lot of gelatin in the feet). You can also use a whole chicken if you want, just make sure you take the meat off the chicken right after it’s cooked so you don’t dry your meat out. Then you can throw your carcass back in the stock pot. (I prefer to use local, free-range chickens that have fed off the land, rather than processed ones because I think you get much healthier meat.)

Directions: Pour 4-5 quarts of water into a good-sized stock pot. I use filtered water since so much of your soup is made up of water. Throw your chicken parts into the water. The last few times I’ve thrown in two backs that my farmer sold me at the farmer’s market for about a dollar a piece. Then toss in carrots, celery, and a large yellow onion (mirepoix). You can coarsely chop these vegetables – no need to spend much time here as you’re only using the vegetables for flavor. I also love to use fresh cloves of garlic and parsley. Once everything is thrown into your stockpot, bring everything to a boil and let vigorously boil until the meat is falling off the bone. (If you’re using a whole chicken and want to save your meat, make sure you take the chicken out when the meat is cooked, carve your meat off, and then return what’s left to the stockpot). If you’re using chicken parts you probably won’t want to use the meat so don’t worry about taking the chicken out and saving the meat – the whole thing can stay in the whole time.

I then add approx two tablespoons of fresh sea salt, but regular salt will work great; one teaspoon cumin; one teaspoon coriander; at least a teaspoon of pepper; a sprinkle of garlic powder. The first few minutes of the rapid boil is when you’ll see a lot of “scum” rise to the top. I keep a spoon and small bowl on hand so I can scrape the scum off and put it in the bowl to later be tossed outside. After the meat starts falling off the bone (1-2 hours), I reduce my stock to a simmer and let it continue anywhere from 2-6 hours. I don’t put a lid on my stock so it can thicken and reduce to a greater intensity. If you’re looking for a lighter colored, less intense stock, keep the lid on. I do occasionally add water if I think I’ve got lots of time to let the stock simmer, stretching all my ingredients a bit more.

When you’re ready to remove your stock from the stove, turn your oven off and let the stock cool. There are other more sophisticated ways to do this, but I get a large colander and simply pour everything from my stock pot through the colander and into a bowl so I’m left with nothing but liquid stock (vegetables, meat and bones should be left in strainer). I then transfer my stock to the refrigerator and let sit for several hours until the stock has congealed (It should be very jelly-like). You’ll see a white layer on top which is the fat. Simply scrape that off and discard. Everything else is pure stock and can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen for much longer.

You will love the way homemade stock makes your soups taste, you’ll love having it on hand in your fridge/freezer, and you’ll love the health benefits, as the gelatin from chicken bones is high in protein and full of nutrients you won’t get in a box or can. If you’ve got other ways of making homemade stock, or some good tips, leave a comment. I’m sure everyone will benefit!








The stock that makes the best soup ever!









Recipe of The Month Folks!

Alright, I missed the recipe of the month in March because I got a little overwhelmed writing this book on the Christian virtues. It’s due soon, actually tomorrow, though I don’t think I’m going to quite make it – especially if I keep doing things like blog about French toast. Will let you know how it goes… Again, thank you all so much for your very helpful comments on the blog regarding the book a few months ago. They were very helpful. Alright, onto the French toast!

This is what all the people gathered around my table are eating on Easter morning. My dear friend, April, whipped it up the night before, and I’m telling you, this dish will make you a hero in your family, neighborhood, social network – wherever you need hero status. Here’s the recipe:

1/2 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
7 Eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
Egg Bread (or Italian Sweet Bread)

Put 1/2 stick butter and 1 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons in bottom of 13×9 inch pan and put in oven until butter is melted. Take out of oven and mix all three ingredients together until you have a nice glaze covering the bottom of the pan. Place thick slices (1.5 inch ea.) of Egg Bread (or bread of your choice) over the glaze covering the entire dish (just one layer). Then whisk 7 eggs and 1-1/2 cups of milk together in bowl. Once whisked, pour over the bread slices in the pan. Cover and put in fridge overnight. Wake up the next morning, preheat your oven to 350 while get your coffee on… Then bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

Super easy. Delicious. Not healthy, but great for the psyche!

Hope you all are enjoying spring. Thanks for the prayers regarding this book. More to come soon…


Recipe Of The Month

Raw farro. But just wait… it gets exciting. Seriously.

A couple weekends ago I brunched at one of my favorite french cafés in Nashville. The chef was fresh out of her steel-cut oatmeal, leaving me to forage through the menu for more exotic fare. I ended up stepping way out on the wild side – what other options do you have when the oatmeal is gone? And ordered the Farrosotto. Next to the name in funky script were the listed ingredients: Mushrooms. I’d heard of them. Butternut squash, butter; check, check. But when I came across the word ‘farro’, I had to involve the waitress. She described it as an ancient grain that is similar to barley and spelt, yet has its own distinct rich and nutty flavor. It was calling out to me in a desperate little voice from the menu, Give me a chance! Give me a chance! And a well-deserving chance it got, hence, the following recipe: (please note this a different recipe from the restaurant’s, but great nonetheless. I made if for myself the other night. Would go amazing with salmon). Note: You can find farro at Whole Foods and online. Comment if you can find it at other brick and mortar stores.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus (8-10 depending on thikness)
1 1/2 cups farro (10 ounces)
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups water
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (fresh if possible) 2 teaspoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Slice the asparagus in approximately 1 inch lengths. Slice them diagonally for presentation. Cook the cut asparagus over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until slightly softened (not mushy), about 5 minutes. Add the farro and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat it with the oil. Add the wine and cook, stirring until it is absorbed, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the water, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until absorbed between additions. The farro is done when it is al dente and suspended in the thick, creamy liquid, about 25 minutes total. If you have a friend who wants to come over and talk, this is a great time for chatting, because there’s little else you can do while stirring.

3. Stir in the yogurt, the cheese and butter and simmer until the risotto has thickened, about 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and serve. (note: you can use vegetable or chicken broth instead of the water for even more flavor – or use half stock/half water. As well, chopped walnuts taste great in this dish).

4. Serve alongside Salmon and perhaps a side of Broccoli or another green vegetable.

Feel free to comment below if you’ve got any great recipe ideas, especially if you’ve used farro in any other creative ways!