Taste & See: Week #3

Greetings friends, foodies, bakers, and wanna-be chefs!

Welcome to the third installment of Taste & See: Culinary Moments with Pastor Ariel… aka… me sharing recipes that I’ve created for my family during this time of Physical Distancing using items that I have found locally or available for delivery. Once again – these posts can be found on my personal blog (www.javaluia.com) and on my church site (www.livingwordkaty.org).

I’ve decided to post recipes every few weeks rather than weekly, as it gives me more time to put the article together. I’m sure you can imagine just how time consuming and hectic ministry during this time can be!

This week there are recipes for:

  • Syrian Bread BLT’s & Mediterranean Orzo Salad
  • Eggplant Casserole & Mediterranean Tossed Salad
  • Parmesan Encrusted Tilapia & Syrian Rice
  • Sour Cherry Crisp

Love, peace, and blessings to you all!

Pastor Ariel

Scripture & Devotion:

“Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”
John 21:2-13

We are all longing to get back to “normal.” Physically isolating ourselves is hard… even if you are isolating with family or friends, they are LITERALLY the only people you regularly get to interact with. Not to mention – we can’t go anywhere; we can’t approach functioning out in the world the same way; we really can’t do much of anything at all.

When you do decide to do something to feel a little more normal, you have to weigh the pros and cons of how much effort that act is going to take. For example – when we opt for takeout because I’m tired and don’t feel up to cooking, we have to take everything out of the containers it was served in, carefully plate our food on our dishes, dispose of all the disposable take-out items directly into our outside trash, and then wash our hands and Lysol Wipe down any surface that was touched including the car. (We kind of have that down to an artform, not going to lie!) It’s hard and frustrating to be living like this.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to eat out at a restaurant, and go clothes shopping and try things on, and hang out it a park, and let my kids go outside to play with the neighbors and not tell them to remember their face masks and to stay 6 feet away from everyone else.

Scripture tells a story of the disciples also wanting their lives to get back to normal. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the 11 aren’t really sure what they are supposed to do, so many of them, led by Peter, go back to their former vocation of fishing. Frank Crouch states that: “These actions follow a typical human pattern–an intense spiritual experience soon fades, and one returns to the same things he or she has always done.”

However, Jesus meets them on the beach with breakfast, and makes them realize that there is more that they are meant to do. That going back to the way things were… back to “normal”… just isn’t going to work. He commissions the, to care for his flock.

During the times when we are lonely, bored, and frustrated, it is important to remember that staying home and doing this hard work is really important. That by doing this we too are caring for God’s flock. We are showing love to our most vulnerable neighbors by keeping them safe from exposure.

When things finally, slowly, begin to reopen, our “normal” will be forever changed, but our duty to care for God’s flock will not have. Once again, take a deep breath, relax, and give thanks to God for reminding us of our calling to care for one another. Go and make something amazing with what you have in your kitchen and share it (safely – remember distancing and travel guidelines… front porch drops are good choices!) with someone who may need just a little bit of caring right now.

Cooking Prayer:

“As the grains of wheat once scattered on the hill, were gathered into one to become our bread, so may all your people, from all the ends of earth, be gathered into one in you.”

Gracious God, all that you create is good. As we create meals and snacks to nourish our bodies, bless us and bless our creations, so that we can continue to be your hands and feet in this broken and weary world. Amen.

Syrian Bread BLT’s & Mediterranean Orzo Salad:

BLT Ingredients

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 6 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp. mahlab
  • Bacon
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Butter or Mayonaise

Syrian Bread Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 500°F.
  2. Put yeast and pinch of sugar into warm water. Let stand until bubbly.
  3. Combine dry ingredients with yeasty water
  4. Add milk and mix with hands.
  5. Add small amounts of additional water as needed.
  6. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.
  7. Cut into 8-12 loaves and kneed. Let rise 45 minutes.
  8. Roll out loaves with a rolling pin, gently.
  9. Bake on bottom rack 5-8 minutes (until poofy).
  10. Move to top rack to brown.
  11. Remove from oven when tops just barely begin to turn brown.



BLT Instructions

  1. Cook Syrian Bread (bread lasts for 5-7 days, so you can have bread pre-made).
  2. Cook Bacon to your desired consistency (I prefer to make bacon in the oven because it is WAY less messy).
  3. Slice Tomato and Lettuce for use in a sandwich.
  4. Cut or tear Syrian Bread in half… open up the pocket in the bread. Coat with butter or mayonnaise and stuff with Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato.

 Orzo Salad Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked orzo
  • Basil, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 medium bell peppers, diced
  • Feta Cheese Crumbles
  • ½ jar of Kalamata Olives, cut in half
  • Lemon Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Dukkah Nut & Spice Blend (Found at Trader Joes or can be ordered online here.), to taste

Orzo Salad Instructions

  1. Boil orzo in 4-5 cups of water until al dente. Drain and rinse. Put in large mixing bowl.
  2. Toss with olive oil (just enough to coat… you don’t want it to be dripping.)
  3. Toss with two tablespoons of lemon juice.
  4. Mix in Basil, tomatoes, bell peppers, feta cheese, and kalamata olives.
  5. Add Dukkah Nut & Spice Mix to taste.

Eggplant Casserole & Mediterranean Tossed Salad:

Eggplant Casserole Ingredients

  • 2 Eggplants, sliced
  • 2-3 Tomatoes, sliced
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • Marinara Sauce

Eggplant Casserole Instructions

  1. Cook Eggplant in oven at 350°F for 20 minutes.
  2. In casserole pan, lay out one layer of eggplant, and add layers of marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan cheese, crumbled goat cheese, and tomatoes.
  3. Add a second layer of all ingredients.
  4. Top with an additional layer of mozzarella.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes.

Mediterranean Tossed Salad Ingredients

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Crumbled Feta Cheese

Mediterranean Tossed Salad Instructions

  1. Place chopped romaine lettuce in a large serving bowl.
  2. Top with cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumber, & crumbled feta

Parmesan Encrusted Tilapia & Syrian Rice:

Tilapia Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 Tilapia Filets
  • ¾ cup Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Olive Oil

Tilapia Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet or baking pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Whisk parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, paprika, parsley, salt, & pepper in a shallow dish.
  3. Coat tilapia fillets with olive oil and press into the parmesan mixture making sure each side is coated evenly.
  4. Arrange coated fillets on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until fish flakes easily with a fork, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Syrian Rice Ingredients

  • ½ cup uncooked orzo
  • 2 cups Basmati or Jasmin rice
  • 4 cups water
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Syrian Rice Instructions

  1. Coat the bottom of a large sauce pan with olive oil and heat.
  2. Toast orzo in heated olive oil.
  3. Mix in rice.
  4. Add water and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low and cover with pot lid. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat… rice will be light and fluffy.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Sour Cherry Crisp:


  • 2 jars dark cherries (or two bags frozen dark cherries that have been thawed), drained & rinsed.
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold butter, cubed


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place cherries in an ungreased pie pan or baking dish. Toss with lemon juice. Sprinkle with sugar.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. With a hand or stand mixer, blend in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.
  5. Spread over the top of the cherries evenly. (Should be fairly thick.)
  6. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden brown.

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