“This is so cool!” I remember saying this to my eldest sister while I was rolling the pasta dough through the machine. Making pasta from scratch has always been a fun and interesting experience for me even though it requires more effort compared to boiling raw, store-bought noodles. So, when I recently craved for pasta, I decided to hang out with my pasta machine again.
While I was combining the flour and eggs, I already imagined the long streaks of pasta dough smoothly making their way out of the machine. However, after cutting the first two pieces of dough, my sister and I noticed that parts of the dough got stuck in the machine. It created a mess because they were stuck in between the rollers and we had to poke and push them out using a pointed knife/chopstick. Also, it was very crucial for us to thoroughly clean the pasta machine because if we left parts of the pasta dough on it and they dried up overnight, the hardened dough may eventually cause damage to the machine when we try to use it again.
During that time, I was already starting to change my mind about cooking homemade pasta because I was afraid that I would end up wasting ingredients, my time, and effort. But somehow, with the help of my sister, we continued to remove the bits that got stuck, sprinkled more flour on the rollers and dough, and proceeded with the next pieces of pasta dough. After rolling each piece of dough, I made sure to sprinkle enough flour on the machine to help roll the dough more smoothly and it worked! By God’s grace, I was able to finish rolling and cutting the pasta dough and I boiled the noodles in time for dinner.
Making pasta from scratch reminded me of a struggle that I face every now and then. I noticed how I was easily discouraged when things didn’t go the way I expected them to. When I made a mistake of not putting enough flour on the roller, it became such a hassle for me to clean up my mess and to start over again. In the same way, I realized that whenever I focus on my weaknesses, my past failures, and the things that I’ve done wrong, I allow these things to rob me of the joy and hope that I have in God.
Lamentations 3:21-23 says “I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
As mentioned in the verse above, we have hope in God knowing that his mercies are new every morning. Even if we fall or lose sight of Him every now and then, He is able to strengthen us and help us get back up again.
“We lose our way, we get back up again. It’s never too late to get back up again.
You may be knocked down but not out forever.”
It is quite a challenge for me to eat and enjoy bitter melons and eggplants. I guess it does take time for some to appreciate these vegetables. Maybe in a few months (or years), I might start to like them. :P
Interestingly, a couple close to our family (Thank you, tito Albert and tita Rosiel Noel) recently gave us a huge plastic filled with asian eggplants and okras from Palawan. As soon as I saw the bag, I immediately felt the urge to cook the eggplants first. I didn’t know why. Hahaha.
And so, I gathered some of my favorite ingredients and prepared this dish: Eggplant Parmigiana.
Because I wanted to know more about the main ingredient before cooking the dish, I did a little research on the internet. After a few minutes, I learned from Alton Brown (Host of the show: “Good Eats”. Episode: Berry From Another Planet) that purging the eggplants help remove the bitterness and moisture from the eggplant, which allows them to absorb the liquid in the dish more.
I purged the sliced eggplants by salting them and letting them rest for a few minutes. When the eggplants started to ‘sweat’, I used a tissue to remove the moisture from them.
After that, I prepared the tomato sauce and fried the breaded eggplants with a tablespoon of oil.
Layering the eggplant parmigiana was fun and easy! I added the ff. ingredients to the bowl and repeated the process twice. :)
Tomato sauce > a few shrimps > Sliced Mozzarella cheese > Cooked eggplants
Finally, it was time for us to taste the eggplant dish. I remember slightly cringing while I was getting my share because I didn’t really like eating eggplants. Haha. But, by God’s grace, He continues to change me for the better and help my taste buds cooperate and appreciate more food. Woohoo!
Also, by His grace, my family and officemates got to taste the dish and enjoyed it too! My dad even sent me a text message the next day: “Your eggplant dish is soooo good, anak! I just had a wonderful breakfast… Thanks!!!” Hahaha. Thanks for the encouragement, dad!
It was a helpful experience for me because God encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things with Him. Even though the eggplant wasn’t (and still isn’t… haha!) my favorite vegetable, He still used it to speak to me and remind me of important principles in life.
Purging the eggplants reminded me of how God’s Word works in our hearts. The salt helped remove the bitterness (found in the moisture) in the eggplants which made them absorb the flavor of the oil and the tomato sauce more. In the same way, God uses the Bible to help us see and remove the unnecessary and unpleasant things that we keep in our hearts, so that we can absorb who He is and the promises and truth that He has for us, and grow into the person that He desires us to be.
It says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Looking forward to learning more about God through His word this week! Hope this encourages you to do so too. :)
Encourage yourself one treat at a time.
RECIPE for Eggplant Parmigiana
8 Asian eggplants
4 cloves of garlic (crushed or diced)
Half an onion (white, chopped)
2 tbsp. oil (1 tbsp. for sauteing sautéing the shrimp; the other for the breaded eggplants)
1 cup of Japanese bread crumbs. (Feel free to use other kinds of breading. We only had the Japanese crumbs at that time.)
4-5 cups (1000g) of crushed tomatoes (in a can). I used the brand: Doña Elena.
McCormick’s Italian seasoning and/or fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, and oregano)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Mozzarella and Parmesean cheese
Optional: 1/3 kilo of your choice of meat (I used some of the shrimps that we had in the freezer).
1. After cooking the tomato sauce and layering the ingredients, you may heat the dish in the oven or in the microwave. The melted mozzarella cheese is perfect for this dish. :)
2. You may also enjoy this dish with sliced plain baguettes.
Whenever our family would watch Junior Masterchef Australia, our jaws would drop every time a contestant would make the assigned dish. It was amazing to see how, even at a young age, each ‘chefling’ would finish well and produce excellent food. When the kids were assigned to make pasta, Anna, one of the hosts, said “Nothing beats fresh, homemade pasta. Once you taste fresh pasta, there’s no turning back.” I was intrigued by her statement and this actually led me to get my own pasta machine. By God’s grace, I attempted to make my very own homemade pasta.
Making homemade pasta involves these activities: kneading, resting, stretching, cutting, and cooking. When I was preparing myself for the process, I was thinking: “Really? There’s no turning back? This looks more complicated than just cooking ready-made pasta. Hahaha.” Little did I know, God was preparing my heart for something more interesting than learning how to make homemade pasta dough.
KNEADING THE DOUGH
I pressed the dough down and squished it continuously (for 8 to 10 minutes) until it had a smooth texture. Kneading the dough produces gluten which gives elasticity to it – this helps the cook stretch the dough and eventually make it into pasta.
While kneading, it seemed like I was giving the dough a really hard time because of all the punches and presses that I did. And for some reason, this made me think about the moments in my life when I would experience painful, uncomfortable, and seemingly unbearable situations; those times when I’d just feel so defeated and discouraged because of the ‘punches and presses’ in my life.
However, God made me realize that the cook kneads the homemade pasta dough for a special purpose (to make pasta noodles). In the same way, God allows things to happen to us for a special purpose. When they happen, we may not always know why, but they certainly are opportunities for us to trust in God.
It says in James 1:2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
LETTING THE DOUGH REST
I then sprinkled the dough with flour and covered it with cling wrap for about an hour (this prevents dryness and it allows the dough to rest). This is a crucial step because when you try to stretch dough which didn’t have enough time to rest, it will just shrink back – making it hard for the cook to get a stretched, thin dough.
In the same way, this step reminded me of how crucial it is to rest on who God is and not to worry about my painful and uncomfortable situations.
Just like the dough that isn’t rested, when my heart and mind are not rested in God, I can easily “shrink back” to panicking, worrying, complaining, and losing the joy and hope that I have in God.
“Find rest my soul in Christ alone, know His power in quietness and trust. When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm. Father, you are king over the flood, I will be still and know you are God.” -Hillsong
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” -Psalm 62:1-2
STRETCHING THE DOUGH
My younger brother, Gabo, helped me stretch the dough using the pasta machine. We placed ¼ of the whole dough into the machine and rolled it out 5 times (adjusting the machine each time to make the dough thinner).
It was amazing to see how a small piece of the homemade pasta dough could be stretched long and be used to make a lot of noodles. God encouraged me through this and reminded me that He is also able to use us and bring out the best in us, even during the times when we experience pain and constantly face uncertainties.
It says in Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
There was also a time when a part of the rolled dough was sliding away and moving to the side of the machine while it was being rolled. This resulted in a crooked and uneven thin pasta dough. And although I had to exert extra effort, I still decided to take the messed up pasta dough, mold it and roll it out again using the machine. I did that because I knew it was worth it; I had a purpose for it.
Similarly, God showed me that even if I make mistakes or sometimes, am stubborn like the dough, He still would graciously pick me up, mold me, and stretch me to become the person that He wants me to be. This encourages me even more to constantly humble myself before God and seek Him in my life. By His grace, He works in our lives; He meets us where we are; and He uses what He has given us for His will and glory.
“…But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” -2 Corinthians 12:8-9
CUTTING AND COOKING
After making the dough thin enough, I then used the pasta machine to cut the pasta dough. After letting it dry for a few minutes, I cooked and served the noodles with tomato sauce and meatballs.
Looking back, I realized that in spite of the challenging tasks and discouragements, the cheflings in the Junior Masterchef Australia finished well; they tried their best to prepare the food; and they persevered until the end with the help of the gracious masterchefs who were by their side.
In the same way, whether or not we experience pain, uncertainties, and challenges in life; I’ve learned that we must choose to trust in God and follow Him even during times when we are being stretched by Him. We must also choose to give Him the best that we can wherever he places us (at home, in school, at work, etc.). Just like the masterchefs, I am reminded that our God is a gracious God and He is more than willing to help us finish well for His glory.
It’s really important to not give up ever, and I’m really glad that I did not give up. – Nick Lieurance (Junior Masterchef Australia Season 1 Top 8)
Hang in there, friend. Even though it’s tough, don’t you ever give up. Finish well by the grace of God. He loves us so much. :)
RECIPE for the SAUCE: Spaghetti and Meatballs by Ina Garten
RECIPE for the PASTA DOUGH: 3 eggs and 2 cups of all-purpose flour
Thanks to Kuya for helping me edit (hehe); Gabo for helping me make the dough (Gotta love brothers!); Mom for the ingredients :D; and of course, God, for Your grace, for being so awesome and encouraging. :)