smoked pork chop

Christmas Cooking

I had the chance to cook some nice food this year for Christmas. I’m recording these mainly so that I can find two of the recipes again if I need to.

On Christmas day, we got four two-inch-thick pork chops from Dutchman’s (only $20!) and I smoked them on the grill for four hours. The only prep was Salt Lick dry rub. Very tasty. No real recipe, just “what I do” when cooking on this grill. But everyone liked them so much they asked me to cook again the next day.

Paul wanted salmon, so I found this recipe for doing it on the grill. Here is the recipe in case the link goes away:

2 pounds/900 g salmon fillets
3 tablespoons/45 mL butter, melted
3 tablespoons/45 mL rum
2 tablespoons/30 mL olive oil
2 heads of garlic, cloves pealed and minced
1 tablespoon/15 mL black pepper
2 teaspoons/10 mL salt

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 to 6


Combine all ingredients except the salmon. Lay salmon fillets out on a tray or baking sheet. Top with butter, rum mixture spreading it evenly over salmon. Let sit for about 15 to 30 minutes. Preheat grill and prepare for indirect grilling. This recipe works particularly well with a charcoal grill. When grill is ready, gently place salmon fillets over the unheated part (indirect) of the grill. Keep the grill on a low heat. You can add soaked mesquite chips for extra smoky flavor. Close lid and let salmon grill for 30 to 45 minutes depending on thickness. Check for doneness by flaking apart the fish at the thickest part. Cooked salmon flakes easily and evenly. The color should lightly pink without any shine.

Note: This recipe is very garlicy. I already only used one head of garlic instead of two, and we all reeked the next day. Next time I think I’d try to cut it down even more. But very very tasty.

Along with the salmon, I fixed a salad. This recipe for Newk’s Favorite Salad was an amazing rendition of one of my favorite salads I’ve ever eaten out. Here is the recipe in case the link goes away:


2 heads Romaine lettuce; chopped
2 Chicken breasts
4 ounce Gorgonzola cheese; crumbled
0.75 cup Dried cranberries
1.5 cup Red grapes; halved
0.75 cup Artichoke hearts; chopped
0.75 cup Pecans; toasted
1 cup Croutons
1 — Sherry Vinaigrette —
1/3 cup Sherry vinegar
1 clove Garlic
1 teaspoon Dried basil
1 teaspoon Dried oregano
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
0.5 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Original recipe makes 4 Servings


To make sherry vinaigrette: Pour first 5 vinagrette ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. using the smaller blender opening, slowly add the oil and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, according to your taste.

Lightly season chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper & then grill your chicken breasts until cooked throughout, but still juicy. Set aside to cool, and then slice.

Prepare salad by adding lettuce, chicken breast, gorgonzola, cranberries, grapes, artichokes, pecans and croutons to a large salad bowl. Slowly add just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the salad and then toss. Serve salad with additional vinaigrette on the side for those who like more dressing.

Notes: I omitted the chicken to serve this with the fish. It still tasted great! This is a lot of salad for four people. All of us got as much as we wanted, and we were hungry. This is “four meal servings”. I only used 1.5 heads of romaine, although the heads were pretty large.

Personal Reference / Mini Tutorial: Virtual Boxes & Web Development

One of the coolest tools out there for web development is VirtualBox. I’m just amazed that Oracle makes functionality of this quality available for free.

Using VirtualBox, I can set up a “blank” server that I can clone and retask to a number of uses. These servers can be buttoned up into files and moved between machines. They can access the internet through my host system.

Note: At this point, this is a draft tutorial. I’m just taking notes for myself so I can remember the Cloning an Ubuntu Server step. I kind of forgot how to do it from before.

Setting up a New Blank Server

It’s best to do this where you’ve got decent speed on your internet.

  1. Download the ISO image for the latest server install. (I generally use the latest ubuntu server). Virtualbox allows you to boot from an ISO image without having to burn an actual CD.
  2. Create a new virtual image and boot the ISO image. Follow the instructions to set up the server. I use the built-in console for Virtual Box to do this.
  3. Make any customizations you want. I always install vim, for example, plus a number of other tools. If you are going to use all of the blanks for web development, install your server and language of choice.
  4. The secondary network (host only) interface

Cloning an Ubuntu Server

  1. Clone the server.
  2. Enable the “Host Only” interface on “settings/network” for the new VirtualBox.
  3. Fire up the virtualbox and sign in using the built-in network.
  4. Edit /etc/network/interfaces and add the following code at the end:
        # replace internet address below with correct one:
        auto eth1
        iface eth1 inet static
  5. Reboot the server.
  6. At this point you should be able to log in from the console.


Big Zucchini

One of my wife’s clients gave her two gigantic zucchini. All you need to do is forget these vegetables for a day or two at picking time and they just keep getting bigger.

Many folks say that a squash this big isn’t good for much. They start to taste woody and starchy once they get big, and the seeds, which are normally edible, get a bit tough. So these giants aren’t going to be sliced up and sauteed in olive oil for some kind of primavera dish.

But there are two good uses for them we thought of:

  • Stuffing. Stuffed Zucchini (look up the recipe from Taste of Home) is good. Even a normal large one would require one vegetable for serving. We got three meals out of one! Just be sure to cook the shell long enough or it will be a bit tough.
  • Zucchini Bread. Long my wife’s favorite recipe, you can make a mountain of zucchini bread out of one of these. I’ll update when I’ve got counts of how much it made.


Wal-Mart Pretzel Buns

I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart’s bakery in general. Since I try to avoid carbs generally, it has to be a pretty nice baked good to get my attention. Wal-Mart misses way more than it hits with me.

That’s why their pretzel buns surprised me. They are great on burgers. They are a bit small for the patties I like to use, but so much the better. The best way to prepare the bun is to put it in the toaster on a bagel setting, after slicing it.

In fact, these buns taste pretty good for breakfast instead of a bagel. How often do you think about eating a hamburger bun plain? Good job, Wal-Mart.


Wedding Message for Adam and Annora

Adam and Annora, Joe, Juanita, all of Annora’s family; my dear Ricki, and all of Adam’s family… my family, and friends: grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Before we get down to business and witness Adam and Annora exchange vows, I’d like to share a few thoughts. Adam and Annora have chosen to remind us, through the Scripture readings we’ve heard, that “two are better than one.” I want to talk about why and how, using a very brief half-verse of Scripture, Revelation 21:5a, where Jesus says: “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The question I have for you today, Adam and Annora, is not “do you love each other?” Your relationship has already survived two years of long distance; the uncertainty of two careers that are trying to get started; and all the challenges of putting on a beautiful event like this. There is more besides, I’m sure. No, I have no doubt about this—the two of you love each other. I don’t need to ask, “do you love each other?” Because I know, you know, and I think we all know, the answer is “yes”.

My question isn’t “who loved the other first,” either, as interesting as that is. No, my question is harder. It is about the future. My question is, “will you love each other?” It is the question I am about to ask you in front of everyone. And you will each answer it, when you look into each others’ eyes and say, “I pledge you my faithfulness.”

There are, these days, plenty of marriages where these promises are made but not kept; where the marriage itself doesn’t survive. There are also some marriages which, like many more that came in times before ours, that stay together from the outside, but feel cold and bitter on the inside, more like a promise kept through gritted teeth than love. Yes, it is possible to stay married, and yet not be able to be sure about the question, “do you still love each other.”

If you want to keep your marriage together, you want to keep your marriage not only between the two of you, but bring God into it. Specifically, Jesus of Nazareth. He belongs in your marriage; in fact, it really should be His marriage as well. I want your marriage to be HIS marriage. And, I hope, to help you remember this, I want to give you three words which form the acronym H.I.S.

The first word, “H” is for “Honesty”. You need to be honest in your marriage. One sad truth about people who live together before they get married is that they often still keep secrets. People think that if they’re sharing towels, they’re sharing everything, but it isn’t true. Tragically, more than a few folks, who, living together for years, get married, and then one of them finally feels safe to be honest, only to find out that the issue is a deal breaker. All of us over a certain age know people who lived together for a long time, got married, then divorced shortly afterward. It was an honesty problem more times than not. There are many reasons, we tell ourselves, that honesty is not our best policy. Adam grew up in my house, and I can remember when as a child we tried to explain to him when it was OK to say something that wasn’t strictly true, and when it wasn’t. I remember once he said that he had cleaned his room when he hadn’t. When we confronted him with his untruth, he said, in his boyish voice, “I wasn’t lying. I was joking.” I remember thinking that my son might have a future in politics. On the other hand, many women are terrified deep down that if their husbands or boyfriends really knew them, they wouldn’t love them. Sometimes that is true. But all of that needs to stop. Honesty is the best policy. You two need to be honest with each other in a way you perhaps have never been honest with anyone else before.

The second word, “I” is for “Intimacy.” I don’t mean only physical intimacy, though that is obviously part of it. In fact, I urge the two of you to tie, from the very first, your physical intimacy with emotional intimacy. It is hard for many of us to take our clothes off for each other. It is even harder to open ourselves up and share our deepest fears and our highest hopes and aspirations with each other. You probably have done it with very few people; maybe with no one. Even if it has been with no one until now, it’s time to make an exception. Don’t settle for getting close physically. You need to really, really know each other. It is sadly true that in many marriages the emotional intimacy dies first, and physical intimacy becomes an empty pleasure, and ultimately no real pleasure at all.

Now, while honesty and intimacy are in some senses the same thing, in other ways they are can work at cross purposes in us sensitive and insecure human beings. This tension comes to mind as I think of a couple married a long time, say, 29 years. The wife is undressing for bed, and stops to take a close look at herself in her bedroom full length mirror. “I’m a mess,” she says to herself. “I look at myself and I see a face full of wrinkles, pretty much the rest of me is either bloated or sagging; my legs are too big around, and I got spots where I never had them before. Boy, do I feel terrible.” She turned around to her husband and said, “that was tough. Could you please say something nice to make me feel a little better about myself?” Her husband got a look like a deer in the headlights. He was silent for a long time. Finally, after a deep breath, he smiled and said, “You’re amazing, honey. Even after all these years there sure isn’t anything wrong with your eyesight.”

I think it’s safe to say that honesty and intimacy were working at cross purposes there. That brings me to my last letter, “S” for “safety.” Your marriage needs to be a physically safe place, an emotionally safe place, and a spiritually safe place, even when it’s the only safe place for the two of you. Now, anyone who works in industrial environments knows there are two big parts of safety. The first part is following rules. Some of these rules you may have learned already, but others you will discover by experience. Some couples, for instance, discover after a time that they get into big arguments in the kitchen, but never in the bedroom. Maybe they can learn to bring up difficult subjects in a place where they just feel safer. That would be a rule. You’ll have your own. Work on those rules intentionally and deliberately.

But beyond rules, though, safety is an attitude. In an industrial setting, you treat dangerous things with respect. I’m sure in the kitchen at El Gallo there is an awareness that the tools for preparing food can cause serious injury if they aren’t treated with respect. Your relationship is quite different. No one who is married more than a year or two doesn’t know his or her spouse’s buttons. My wife can make me really angry in just two sentences. They are few words, but words full of hurtful meaning and painful memory. You will have these words in your minds after a while, too. Sharp knives. They ought to be treated with respect, and not thrown around carelessly.

Unfortunately, no matter how careful we try to be, or how many rules we try to make, our human condition does not allow us to avoid hurting each other and even ourselves. It happens all too often. There is no perfect marriage because, almost from the very beginning, there are no perfect people.

When we did our premarital counseling, we looked at the first half-verse I’m talking about today. The Lord had created Adam, and before he ever saw Eve, the Lord said, “it is not good for the man to be alone.” Now, you may remember when we talked about this verse, I told you that it occurs inside a chapter that I call the “bookends of the Bible.” The first two chapters of Genesis and the last two chapters of Revelation can be called “bookends” because they sit at opposite ends, and yet have something in common. Nowhere in Genesis 1 & 2, or in Revelation 21 & 22 is sin a problem. But sin is an issue from Genesis 3 all the way to revelation 20.

Our second half-verse I’m talking about today is from Revelation 21. It is also in the “bookends of the Bible.” In this case, at the other end of things, sin has met its match, and is no longer a factor. In Revelation 21:5 Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” God has in mind a radical makeover for all of creation, a re-creation without the sin that seems to have such a strong hold on the world today. I say “seems” because Jesus has already solved the problem of sin. It no longer need have power over you, once you have put your faith in him.

Sin can wreck your marriage. I’m here to warn you about that. I asked you, one time we got together, to begin praying together, out loud, as a couple. I repeat that request here again in the presence of others, some of whom, I hope, may help hold you accountable. It is good to pray to be delivered from sin and evil, not only in your individual lives but in your married life.

You two don’t need to worry about the sin in your marriage nearly as much with the safety of it being HIS marriage. He is there to forgive your sins, and to teach you grace in your lives. It may be a learning process, but as believers, the Holy Spirit will teach you grace. You will learn, sometimes through inspiration, sometimes through dull practice, how to make your marriage safe by forgiving each other, being tender to one another, and bearing with one another, in a way that simply isn’t possible without that full knowledge of forgiveness. Like a tether on a ladder climber, Jesus’ forgiveness can give you the confidence to be for each other all that God wants you to be.

We’re about to hear your vows of love and faithfulness to each other. After that, we’ll pray. God always hears our prayers. My prayers, to, go to each of you, and to all of the married people here. I pray that the waters you swim in in your life together give you encouragement to make your marriage honest, intimate, and safe. H.I.S. May your marriage, and all of our marriages, be HIS marriage, in HIS name. Amen.


Ricki’s Family coming over for Brisket


We bought a smoker this week. We’ve been making do with our old Weber gas grill for a decade and a half now, and it works great for all kinds of stuff, but briskets always cook too quickly. So we went to HEB and bought a char-griller smoker. It was a great price.

We did a “test brisket” already, and it was great. This is the second one, for my in-laws who are coming later this afternoon. All part of the wedding celebration for Adam!


Peggy Marlow Called to Glory

Peggy Marlow, who was a member of Genesis Lutheran Church, died this morning. I had been visiting her and praying with her. She discovered she had cancer this past spring and elected not to have treatments made due to its advanced stage. She hadn’t eaten anything for over a month.

Peggy was a sweet lady. I enjoyed getting to know her a little bit. Her husband, Glenn, had served as president of Genesis Lutheran church. He died without warning on his driveway one morning several years ago; Peggy is now reunited with him.

Peggy loved art and spent a lot of time in a gallery in Marble Falls. Her friends from the gallery were extremely loyal to her as the cancer ran its course. I would be blessed to have friends like that by my side if something similar happened to me.

It’s likely that I’ll be doing a memorial service for her. As I’ve already had plenty of meditation time thinking about her (during my drives back and forth to Burnet and Marble Falls to visit her), I’ve already decided that I’ll select a text of Psalm 84:1-2:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.

Peggy asked me (and told others, too) that she wants me to pay “For all the Saints” at her funeral on my trombone. I did that at Easter, which was the last service she was able to attend at Genesis. It gives me pause to think about that old horn, which my parents bought for me 45 years ago, having this service. Pray for me and my message. Some funerals are harder than others. This one will be easy for me, because I can be very confident about Peggy’s faith and her salvation. Please, make your own funeral easy for whoever is going to have to do it.


Wedding Preparations


As the groom’s family, we don’t have that much to do, but we are doing the rehearsal dinner. Here are the flowers and the mason jars they will be sitting in on the tables.

We spent the morning visiting a friend who is in her last stages of hospice care with cancer. I’m afraid there isn’t much left of her; she hasn’t been able to eat for about a month. Then, we stopped by HEB to get flowers.


In the mean time, we’ve got family coming over tomorrow, so some cleaning is in order. Maybe I can get rid of some piles of papers, too.