Helpful Hints: Freezing Fruits & Vegetables

Between posting slow cooker meals, I wanted to share some helpful hints on how to Fruits and Veggiesmaximize your dollar when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. I am a tight budgeted shopper when it comes to fresh produce. It can get pretty expensive depending on where a person lives, and especially with how many mouths they have to feed.

I’ll start with fruit.

  • The number one piece of advice I can give you- lay the fruit out piece by piece on a parchment (or silicone baking mat) lined sheet pan and freeze them individually. After they have frozen, add them to freezer storage bags in smoothie portions, or larger quantities for baking and grab and go use. Fruits contain plenty of moisture, so if you throw them all in the same bag freshly cut- they will freeze together into a big rock. When you go to use them, whether it be in the blender or to bake, they will be an arduous task to break apart. By doing it this way, they will be easier to work with and stay longer in the freezer.

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Moving on to veggies:

  • For green vegetables (broccoli, kale, green beans, Brussels sprouts, etc) I am a huge proponent of blanching and shocking. To blanch green vegetables,  dunk them  into boiling water for about 1 minute, and then immediately transfer them into an ice water bath to shock them out of cooking any longer. This method helps the vegetables become a vibrant green, and it also preserves them longer.
  • Once they have been blanched and shocked, lay them out to dry on paper towels. Put them into freezer storage bags and use them as needed for soups, stews, stir fry, etc.
  • With kale and spinach, you can definitely freeze them fresh, but only do that if you planning on making smoothies out of them. If you freeze them fresh and thaw them out to use them in a salad, they will become pretty mushy and have a strange texture when eaten.
  • Below are photos of broccoli that starts out fresh and goes through the blanching and shocking process. It looks so pretty at the end. Not to mention, green is my favorite color, so I might be a little biased.

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  • Root vegetables are the same. Potatoes cannot go straight into the freezer or they will turn black and also have a strange texture. Cut them up into the desired sizes, blanch them for 3-5 minutes, shock them until cold, and lay them out to dry. Place them into freezer bags and use them in soups, stews, baked dishes, stir fry meals, etc. I always do this when I am freezer prepping slow cooker meals. I’ll blanch several potatoes and other vegetables to add to my freezer bags with meat and other ingredients.
  • This method also applies to carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, yucca, rutabaga, so forth and so on. You can also do this with butternut squash. It works like a charm.

I hope this helps you stretch your dollar a bit more in the produce category. Most importantly, I hope this helps you to prepare meals in advance so you are able to spend meaningful time with your family. It doesn’t take long to prep a bunch of vegetables for the coming days and weeks.  I find that having vegetables in the freezer gives our meals a healthy boost when I haven’t been able to make it to the grocery store for something fresh. Also, freezing fruits and vegetables does not hinder their nutritional value, so go ahead and buy that extra bunch of kale, banana, or green beans and get them in the freezer. Taking care of our bodies, and making sure our families eat healthy is one small thing we can do to honor the life God gave us.

Lots of love and many blessings,

Chelsea

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.

Matthew 11:28

Slow Cooker Sundays: Week 1

Tis the season of preparation. I feel like September marks the time where everyone is super busy. We are inundated with sports, homework, dinner, to and from this and that, and the holidays fast approaching. I have decided to start a Slow Cooker Series for Sundays. I don’t know about you, but I really take the “day of rest” seriously. I am sure you understand what it feels like to be a busy mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, caregiver…you get what I’m saying.

Over the next 8 weeks, I am going to introduce several recipes that require minimal work. The phrase “set it and forget it” will be your new best friend. The best part? These are also freezer friendly. That’s right. You can make these ahead of time and just pop them in the freezer for a later day. When you want to cook them, just empty them into the slow cooker and let the machine do its magic. I have tested these recipes on my family after trying many one-note slow cooker recipes. I guarantee these are full of flavor, and are sure to please the whole bunch.

Low & Slow Beef Roast with Vegetables

You will need:DSC_0668

  • 1 2-3lb beef chuck roast
  • 1 medium bag of baby carrots, or frozen carrot slices
  • 10-12 baby creamer potatoes, or 2 large russet potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 packet of au jus seasoning mix
  • 1 packet of ranch seasoning mix
  • 6 pepperoncini peppers from the jar (trust me..don’t skip it)
  • 2-3 tbsp of the pepperoncini pepper juice

Place the roast in the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle the seasoning packets onto the roast. Pour the peppers and pepper juice on top of the seasoning. Place the potatoes and carrots on top of the seasoned roast. Put the slow cooker lid on top and cook on low heat for 8 hours. Shred the meat when it is done and let it hang out in the juice for a few minutes while you get the plates ready. Serve it up with the potatoes, carrots, and peppers on the side.

How easy is that? The roast is fall apart tender at the end of the cooking time. The potatoes and carrots are full of flavor from the juices of the meat and seasoning mixes. The pepperoncini peppers are a big hit…please don’t skip that part. They add so much flavor, and the peppers are delicious after they have cooked with everything else. If you’re wondering, no, they are not spicy.

I hope you love this recipe! Let me know if you try it out and what you think. This should give you more time with your family on days where you don’t feel like cooking, but you want a family meal to enjoy together around the table.

Lots of love and many blessings,

Chelsea

For he has freed my soul from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

Psalms 116:8-9

 

 

 

New baby…and lasagna rolls!

Well, since we last spoke…I had a baby! We welcomed our first son, William Orlando, into the world on August 4th. It was a bit of a stressful event. I went in for a growth scan at maternal fetal medicine and it was determined that he was not doing so well. He was measuring small (IUGR) and it was highly advised that I be induced ASAP. I was 39 weeks and 3 days, so I went ahead with it and started the process the next evening.

Will-Will (as he has been dubbed by his sisters) came out healthy, thriving, and weighing 6.7lbs! He was (still is) perfect, and his extra chromosome that caused us so much anxiety proved to be the sweetest blessing. He had a 24 hour NICU stay due to some blood glucose problems, but he was able to get past it and come home with us a few days later.

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On August 29th, we did find out that he has a small hole in his heart, a VSD to be exact. This is an issue that is being closely monitored, but it is not causing any problems as of right now. His cardiologist is fantastic, and we go back to see him in a couple weeks to see if it has closed on its own, or if he will need surgery. Please pray for my little dude.

I have been pretty skimpy on the recipes as of late. With the move, having a baby, and going to all of these specialist appointments- I have not really paid much attention to my camera. It stares at me all day on my kitchen counter top, so this week I promised myself I would get a recipe or two down in the books. So here we go!

Lasagna Rolls

You will need:DSC_0659

  • 1 box of lasagna noodles (you’ll need 12, but I prefer to boil 13 in case one rips)
  • 1lb lean ground beef, or ground turkey
  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 15oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 2 tsp olive oil

To get started, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tsp olive oil to the water, as well as 1 tsp salt. The olive oil will keep the noodles from sticking together. Add in the lasagna noodles, and cook until almost done. Drain the water, and lay the noodles out on a lightly oiled sheet pan, or on a nonstick silicon mat.

Preheat your oven to 350*F. Heat a large skillet or sautee pain over med-high heat. Brown the ground beef until it is just cooked through. Turn down the heat to medium and add in the dried basil and oregano, garlic powder, and remaining tsp of salt. Stir until seasonings mix in with the meat. Add the spinach on top of the meat and let it wilt down. Give everything a good stir, and turn off the heat. DSC_0609DSC_0611

In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, beaten egg, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Give it a stir. Add the meat and spinach mixture to the ricotta mixture until it is all combined. Grab a baking dish of your choice, and get ready to roll!

Pour 1/4 cup of your pasta sauce into the bottom of the baking dish and spread around. Scoop about 2tbsp of the meat mixture and gently spread  over each lasagna noodle. It’s easier to use your hands honestly, so go for it if you want! Just make sure they are clean. I keep about 1-1.5 inches empty on each side of the noodle. This helps them roll easier and it also prevents the filling from spilling out. Add each completed lasagna roll to the baking dish. You can put them side by side, or a small distance apart. Either way works.

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Top the completed lasagna rolls with the remaining pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered at 350*F for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and slightly browned on top. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Don’t these look awesome?! They are easy to make, and I have yet to hear a single complaint about them from my kids (even with the 2 cups of spinach in there). You can also make these ahead of time, freeze them, and bake them off at 350*F for 1 hour covered with foil, and bake for another 10 minutes uncovered. Great make ahead meal!

Will-Will is going to be baptized within the coming months. I am going to be an emotional wreck, but in a good way. Again, please pray for him… we really want his heart to be healed.

I hope you love this recipe. If you try it, please leave me some feedback! As always, thank you for your support.

Lots of love and many blessings,

Chelsea

If we love one another,
God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

1 John 4:12

Whipped Banana Pudding

It has been over two months since my last post. To say we have been busy is a total understatement. If you follow me on Instagram at all, you will see that we recently moved across the country and have been trying to get settled in our new place. Our household goods shipment was delayed by an entire month, so we lived on bare floors and paper plates for that time. Loads of fun with small kiddos, pets, and a big pregnant belly! All is well now, and I finally have my kitchen in order.

I love desserts. I enjoy trying new ways to make them, and this version of banana pudding is one of my favorites. I have about four different banana pudding recipes that I lean on at any given time depending on where I am going and who I am serving. This version is quick, delicious, and great for someone looking to try a new way to make a classic.

Whipped Banana Pudding

You will need:DSC_0459

  • 6 bananas
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 box Nilla Wafers (must be Nilla Wafers…absolute must)
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar+ 2 tsp of sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pie dish, clear jars, or serving cups

Start by making the homemade vanilla pudding. Don’t be intimidated! This is very simple, and it tastes amazing. In a sauce pan, add in the 2 cups of cold whole milk, and whisk in the 3 tbsp corn starch. *The milk must be cold in order for the corn starch to mix in. Otherwise, it will turn into a clumpy mess.* Turn the heat to medium, and start stirring. Once the mixture is hot, add in the sugar and salt. You’re going to want the mixture to get hot, but not to boil. It will look and feel like it’s not ever going to thicken, but all of a sudden, it will be pudding! So keep your eye on it and continue stirring every 30 seconds or so for 10-15 minutes. Once it can coat the back of a spoon, you’ve got about 2-3 more minutes of stirring until it is nice and thick.

Once the mixture turns to pudding, transfer to a separate bowl and stir in the 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, and press the plastic wrap down onto the pudding. Otherwise, a skin will form, and nobody likes that. Put in the fridge for an hour (or freezer for 20-30 minutes if you want to speed things up).

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The pudding should be room temp or colder. If it is still warm after an hour, pop it back in the fridge until it reaches the right temp. Otherwise, it will completely ruin the next step.

Add the 1pt of heavy whipping cream to a bowl, and either by hand or with a mixing attachment, whip until it forms stiff peaks. Add 1tsp of vanilla and 2 tsp of sugar to it and whip until just combined.

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This is where my banana pudding takes a different turn, but trust me- it is delicious. Take the pudding mixture and gently fold it into the whipped cream until it is just combined. It should form a silky texture at this point.

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In your pie dish, or serving vessel that you chose, go ahead and put down a layer of Nilla wafers (set aside 4-5 wafers at this point for the topping).  On top of the wafers, layer a few scoops of the whipped pudding mixture and smooth it out, and top that with sliced bananas. Add more Nilla wafers, whipped pudding mixture, and sliced bananas until the dish is full and topped with the whipped pudding mixture. For the topping, I crush the set aside wafers and sprinkle them all around. Put this into the refrigerator for at least an hour before eating. It is better overnight, but if you just can’t wait, an hour is completely fine.

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When you are ready to serve, just scoop some out and put into a bowl. If you made this in serving cups or jars, follow the same layering instructions until your cups are as full as you want them. This recipe will fill an entire pie dish to the top with banana pudding.

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I hope you love this recipe! I adore banana pudding, and this version just changes things up a bit without adding or taking away any of the best parts. The homemade pudding is absolutely wonderful, but if it intimidates you to make it, a box of instant vanilla pudding won’t hurt a bit.

As always, thank you for your support. I am due to give birth to this little guy around August 8th, but if he is anything like his sisters, he will arrive no earlier than a week late! That is fine by me though… I will enjoy my sleep as long as I can.

Lots of love and many blessings,

Chelsea

The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

James 1:18

 

The Perfect Chocolate Cookie

This will be my last recipe for a couple of weeks. We are packing up our house and preparing to leave California for the D.C. area. I am beyond excited to live somewhere new, yet at the same time, I am feeling pretty sad about leaving. We’ve lived here for almost a decade.  Our children’s lives began here, our education was completed here,  and this is where I became Catholic. Please pray for us as we embark on this cross-county drive within the next week or so to arrive at our new beginning.

As I bid “farewell” to California, I think about all of the beautiful time spent in my kitchen surrounded by friends, family, new babies, big kids, little kids, dogs, and whoever else happened to walk in the door for a meal. I have to say, out of all of the food I have prepared, cookies are probably the most popular item. We’ve had a couple friends live with us over the last several years, and they will testify that I am a cookie monster (a.k.a. connoisseur). To celebrate this new beginning, and to also cherish the time here, I put together this absolutely perfect (oh yes, perfect) chocolate cookie recipe. It is one of those recipes that you will want to make over and over and over again. The outside is crispy, and the inside is soft and fudgy.

Chocolate Cookies

You will need:DSC_0269

  • 1 cup of softened butter
  • 2 cups of sugar (1 1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

To begin, preheat your oven to 350*F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I like to beat this on high for 30-45 seconds with the whisk attachment (if using a stand mixer) until combined. I then scrape the bowl down and beat again on high for another 30-45 seconds until it is really light and fluffy. Go ahead and switch to a paddle attachment and add in the two eggs and vanilla. Give it a good mix on medium speed until everything is well incorporated.

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Next, add in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt all at once. Mix on low to medium speed until combined. Scrape the bowl down and mix again until you can’t see any of the white butter/egg/sugar/vanilla mixture. Add in the 2 cups of chocolate chips and mix on low until well incorporated. It will look quite inviting at this point… but hold back. There’s still more to do! *self control*

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Scoop out 1 tbsp dollops onto the parchment lined sheets. This recipe will make 24 cookies, so aim for no more than 12 per sheet. Make sure there is enough space between each cookie. When cookie recipes have just butter, and not shortening, they tend to spread out more.

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Bake at 350*F for 10 minutes exactly. When the timer goes off, take them out and let them cool for a full 20 minutes. They will come out of the oven fluffy, but as time goes on in the cooling process, they will flatten significantly. The longer you let them cool, the more they will firm up. The outside will be crispy, and the inside will be delightfully fudgy and soft.

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I had so many beautiful photos of them I just decided to put them all here. They are really the best cookies. You can also substitute half of the chocolate chips for peanut butter chips. It is amazing! Beware- these are easy to eat. You have been warned.

I am looking forward to cooking in my new kitchen and sharing my recipes along the way. Thank you so much for your support. If you try one of my recipes, I would love to hear any feedback you may have! Follow me on Instagram @thecatholickitchen if you would like to keep up with our cross-country trip coming up. We will be stopping at beautiful sites along the way. See you in a few weeks!

Lots of love and many blessings,

Chelsea

I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord;
he will guide you to all truth.

John 16: 7

 

Peach & Blueberry Crumble

It is a beautiful Sunday, and for you my friends, I wanted to share something sweet. This is a peach and blueberry crumble. Summer is just around the corner, and for me, that opens up an entirely new season of ingredients to cook with. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables that are grown in the summer, so I really look forward to preparing dishes with seasonal ingredients. This also includes dessert, because…why not? I hope you love this recipe! It is definitely a favorite of mine.

Peach & Blueberry Crumble

You will need:DSC_0087

  • For the filling:
    • ~2 lbs of sliced peaches (so, 2 15oz cans of sliced peaches- drained, 1 32oz bag of frozen sliced peaches, or 2 lbs of fresh peaches- peeled, pitted, and sliced)
    • 1 cup of blueberries, fresh or frozen
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup corn starch
    • ~2 tsp lemon zest (the zest of one lemon is what I am really getting at here, so just zest the lemon you plan on using)
    • juice of one whole lemon (~2-3 Tbsp)
  • For the crumble topping:
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 stick of really cold butter, cubed

To get started, preheat your oven to 350* F. If you are using frozen fruit- I highly advise you to thaw it out prior to baking. Otherwise- the dessert will be extra watery.

In a large bowl, combine peaches, blueberries, corn starch, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Give this a good stir and let it hang out while you mix the crumble topping together. The lemon is an absolute must, so please do not skip this part. DSC_0059DSC_0060In a separate bowl (using either a stand mixer or a bowl with a hand mixer) combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Give this a mix until it is combined. Add in the cold butter and mix until it is in small pieces (like the size of blueberries).  Once the butter is in small pieces, use your hand to squeeze the dough together to form larger crumbles. There will be large crumbles, small crumbles, and fine “sand-like” dough in the bowl. This is perfect.

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Set a baking dish on top of a parchment lined baking sheet. I used a 6 inch ramekin, but a pie dish, an 8×8 casserole, or anything small and deep will work. The idea is to have at least a ~1-1.5 inch layer of crumble on top. If you try to bake this in a larger dish with a thin layer of crumble, it might not end up as crispy as you’re expecting. Keep the dish deeper and smaller to ensure a thick layer of crumble.

In your baking dish, add in the fruit mixture, and then top with all of the crumble mixture. The fruit mixture will have some liquid from the lemon juice and corn starch. This is okay. The corn starch will thicken as it heats, resulting in a deliciously gooey fruit filling. Also, when you’re adding the crumble mixture on top- it’s going to seem like you are putting a ton on there, but trust me- get it all on. Don’t pack it down, just pile it all on there as good as you can. The butter in the mixture will help it to melt down and bake into a seriously crispy topping.

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Place the sheet pan with the baking dish into the oven on the center rack, and bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling to the top.

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Allow this to sit and cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve in a bowl alongside vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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This dessert is absolutely wonderful. It is sweet, yet bright and tangy. The lemon zest and juice really bring out the flavors of the fruit, and the crumble topping is crisp and plentiful. It is always a big hit wherever I take it. You can easily double this recipe for a get-together or church pot-luck. I have also made this ahead of time and frozen it before baking. If you want to do this, just take it out of the freezer and bake at 350 *F for ~1-1.5 hours.

I hope you love this recipe! It is a favorite of mine. My husband is not a fan of baked fruit desserts (feels like stab to the heart sometimes… I love all things cobbler, pie, crumble, and crisp!) but my kids and I gobble this up every time I make it.

As always, thank you for your support. If you don’t already, give me a follow over on Instagram @thecatholickitchen.

Lots of love and many blessings,

Chelsea

Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him.

John 14:23

Greek Yogurt Flatbread

Today is the first day of May! I can’t believe it. Time flies, doesn’t it? I graduate in 10 days and I cannot tell you how excited/relieved/thankful I am. I have one exam to get through, so pray for me please!

Today’s recipe is one that is a huge hit with my family. It only takes 10 minutes to make (maybe 15 if it’s your first time), and that includes cooking time. The ingredients are simple, the cooking process is quick, and this can be manipulated to fit into any meal idea! I hope you love it.

Greek Yogurt Flat Bread

You will need:DSC_0137

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • a grill, a grill pan, or a flat dry pan

To get started, add the flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl. Whisk it around until it is all mixed together. Go ahead and dollop the Greek yogurt into the middle of the bowl. To mix this without getting completely messy, start by covering the yogurt with the surrounding flour mixture. Once it’s covered, press down gently. Keep folding the flour over onto the yogurt and pressing down until it is all mixed in. Form it into a ball. Your hands shouldn’t get too messy if you do it this way.

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The ball of dough should be firm and not sticky at this point. Go ahead and flour a surface. Place the dough onto the floured surface and sprinkle some flour on top. Roll the dough out into whatever shape you like. Mine always ends up in this oval/rectangle kind of shape. I just go with it. It should be about 1/2-3/4 inch thick. If you find that the dough is sticky, sprinkle a little flour on top to keep your rolling pin from sticking.

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At this point I transfer the dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. This is where you can get as creative as you want with seasoning. For today though, I am keeping it simple. We are eating this with soup, so I am not going to overly season it.

I drizzle 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil over the dough and spread it out to the very edges with my hands. I sprinkle salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning over the top. Flip it over and do the same to the other side.

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If you’re grilling this, cook it for 2-3 minutes on each side over med-high flame. If you’re grilling this in a grill pan, do the same. The grill marks will vary from golden brown to a slight char on the edges. The inside of the bread will be nice and fluffy, yet dense and chewy. The outside will have a light crunch and excellent texture. DSC_0124DSC_0126

If I am eating this with soup, I cut it into squares that are easy for dipping and scooping. You can also pile on a salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing and fresh tomatoes for a flatbread lunch. The possibilities are really endless!

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I hope you love this recipe. It’s a family favorite of mine, and this specific amount is enough for each person to have 2-3 pieces alongside their meal. Again, it is very easy and super quick to make! I love that it only has a couple ingredients and doesn’t require any sort of rise time or yeast activation.

As always, thank you for your support. If you try this recipe, I’d love some feedback! If you don’t already, give me a follow over on Instagram @thecatholickitchen.

Lots of love and many blessings,

Chelsea

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

John 14: 27-31