Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent: Waiting

There are seasons when Christmas comes swooping in...bringing with it, goodwill and cookies in the oven and rushed preparations for special worship services and goofy photos of big dogs in little holiday hats...

And then there are seasons when Christmas comes trodding in...bringing with it hesitation and a bit of heaviness and unfinished projects and when by the 9th, we feel lucky to have ornaments on the tree because we're too tired to do much else...

That has been this season.  A season of bitter cold.  And taking other peoples grief and making it my own. A season of bareness and even bleakness.  And disorientation. A season of "lasts" and final breaths and an underlying anxiety that can neither be tamed nor defined.

I suppose that's okay.  It's certainly not preferential. But it's okay.

Because this season will pass.  As they do. And there will be new life that will shoot out of this charred stump of time.  And really, that's what we hope for each Christmas.  We hope that the promises of God mean something.  And that God's constant task of recreation will include us.  And that this new Presence will inspire that still, small spark that lies a bit dormant in this moment...

And we hope that the journey isn't done.  That joy and peace and love remain. 

'Tis the season...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fancy Pants: Mushroom Soup

When I was 12 or 13 years old, my mother signed me up for an etiquette class at the Dillard's department store.  For four Saturday’s in a row, myself and three other young teenage girls gathered in a small back office to learn how to cross our ankles when sitting in a chair and how to properly introduce ourselves when greeting an adult.  We were taught which skirt length and pantyhose combo would garner the most respect, and how to curtsy.  I kid you not.  They taught us to curtsy. 

Twenty-five years later, I have never once, had to use my vast knowledge of the curtsy.  But I suppose if I ever meet the queen, I’ll be glad to have that information in my back pocket. 

Anyway, on the final Saturday, we were taken up to the housewares section and seated around an elegantly decorated table, set out with the finest wedding china and stemware allowed by Dillard's management.  And around each plate, was an assortment of forks, spoons, and knives.  Then we spent the afternoon learning which fork was appropriate to use for specific functions and which spoon, if used improperly, would get us kicked out of the fanciest of restaurants.  I muddled through.  Had a hard time caring much.  

I knew I wasn't fancy then, as I do now.  I’m still not confident in my fork choosing skills... and it's probably a testament to my high fluten lifestyle, when I admit, that I consider it a fancy dining establishment, when they have cloth napkins instead of paper.

But last night, I channeled my inner fancy pants, and made some of the best Mushroom Soup I've ever tasted.  Seriously. 

What you'll need:

1 Medium/large sweet onion, sliced
2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil (whatever you need to make sure those suckers don't stick)
Black pepper
3 Cups sliced mushrooms (I used the cheep-o's...just your run of the mill, white mushroom...called Monterey)
1 Cup chopped mushrooms
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Cups beef broth
1 Can full fat, coconut milk

What you'll need to do:

Melt your coconut oil in a large pan.  Throw in your onions and pepper.  Just barely caramelize the onions (3-5 minutes on medium-high heat).  Add the mushrooms and stir to coat.  At this point, add a bit of olive oil; just enough so that everything gets a nice little sheen.  Let simmer, stirring occasionally (5-7 minutes....I took this time to check Facebook... wherein, I was sucked into the vortex of namecalling and fingerpointing.  Good times.)  Add beef broth and bring to a boil.  When a boil has started, pull down the heat to a simmer and let it do its thing for another 5-7 minutes.  Add the entire can of coconut milk and stir to fully incorporate.  Bring it back up to a hard simmer and then you're done.
Cell phone, photo disclaimer:
it looks really "greasy" here.
It's really had cooled considerably
and I hadn't stirred it much.
It's really worth trying, despite the poor photo!

It's a cloth napkin kinda soup.  I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Possibility: GF Chocolate Brownie and Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

Brett, my husband, turned 40 last week.  There was a long period…maybe 4 or 5 months…where he was NOT handling it well.  He would grumble about the months passing too quickly and snarl “it’s just a number” and roll his eyes at his little brother’s attempt at “age humor.”  Especially when it threatened to included a collapsible cane and a subscription to AARP.  I thought he was overreacting.  And told him as much. 

But now that his birthday has passed…I’m starting to get a little nervous.  Because I realize…I’m right behind him.  Creeping along that well worn road of “unmistakable adult,” where I no longer get carded for a glass of wine and must set regular appointments with my stylist to cover the patches of gray hair that insist on reappearing each month. 
It boggles the mind, to consider the fact that our lives could very well be, half over.  And at the very least, the most exciting, full-of-possibility, pain-free half of our lives.  I say that, with a bit of humor...but I work in the aging church...where most of those I minister with, have long given up trying to cover their gray hair and wistfully remember the "good ol' days."  I hear litanies of pain and listen for laments of lost freedom and humdrum.  And even I want to shout to the new college freshman, "Don't forget this really is the best...everything is in front of you.  Every possibility.  Every turn and every fork in the road.  Every love and every loss.  Every exploration and every hesitation." 
But even as I type that...I know that it's a's a choice to decide that "possibility" is no longer in your vocabulary. 
So, rather than freak out or settle into a serious state of depression… I’ve started my own version of a bucket Possibility List.  I’ve got things like “be an extra in a movie” and “spend the night in a tree house” and “take a pottery class” and "eat more (really) good chocolate" – you know, frivolous fun stuff!  But then I’ve got other, more intentional things, like “be a more active presence in the life of Alzheimer patients“ and “volunteer regularly at Hope Haven“ and “work to change the systems that keep people food-insecure.”  This list has already taken me out of my little, comfortable box that I live in…it's brought fear and the unknown back into my life.  In a good way.  And I like it. 

So here's to checking things off the Possibility List...starting with "eat more (good) chocolate" and Brett's birthday cake...

What you'll need:
Gluten Free Brownies:
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Cup white (or brown) rice flour
1/4 Teaspoon salt
Peanut Butter Mousse:
1 Cup heavy whipping cream, cold
10 Ounces cream cheese...or like, a package and a half, at room temperature
2/3 Cup powdered sugar
2/3 Cup creamy peanut butter (the stuff I used, had added I cut back on the powdered sugar just a smidge) 
Chocolate Ganache:
4 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
½ cup heavy whipping cream

What to do for the Gluten-free Brownies:
Preheat oven to 350*.  Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl mixer.  Add eggs, water, and vanilla, mixing well.  Add cocoa and incorporate well.  Add flour and salt, mixing until smooth and a little glossy.  Divide between two 8 inch round cake pans that have been buttered and lined with parchment.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.

What to do for the Peanut Butter Mousse (besides drool):
Whisk the whipped cream on high until stiff peaks form.  Set aside (I put mine in the fridge because it was so bloomin' hot in the house..."enjoying August" is not on my Possibility List). In a different bowl, gather cream cheese, peanut butter, and powered sugar together, whisking on medium speed, until fully incorporated and fluffy.  Add whipped cream and whisk on medium high until peanut butter mixture and whipped cream are fully incorporated and the texture is light and fluffy and tastes the way you think heaven might taste.
What to do for the Chocolate Ganache:
Break up your semi-sweet chocolate and put it in a small-ish bowl.  In a saucepan bring cream to a boil. Once the boil starts, pour over chocolate. Let sit for about a minute or until your patience runs out.  Whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.

And then assemble.  Layer...or, if you don't care about presentation...just take a big spoon, scoop up a bit of brownie, a glob of mousse, and dip the tip into the ganache...and eat to your hearts content.

You'll note: There are Reeses Peanut Butter Cups on this concoction...they are Brett's favorite candy...but they completely ruined the flavor profile (Gaw...I'm fancy.  Or spending too much time watching the Food Network).  I would suggest leaving them off.  Or replacing them with chopped Snickers bars.  But that's only because those are my favorite. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cost: Trayvon

I wrote this for the blog I maintain for the church I serve... but thought I'd share it here too.....we all need a little prayer and a little hope and little Divine today.  May this Sunday morning, be wrought with blessings...

When a child dies at the hands of another...especially at the hands of costs us. 

Sure, it costs money and air time and news space and all those bits of "cost" that actually, somehow, manage to benefit someone else...someone other than the one who has died (namely, lawyers and networks)...

But it costs human beings...who have been knit so intricately together, by the Divine strand of costs us our spirits.  It costs us that little glimmer inside that says "God is bigger than this" and we start to ache in ways that are insatiable.  We start to glance at others with a shroud of suspicion.  We start to believe that humanity is just as "bad" as we've been led to believe.  We start to pray a little less.  Shout alleluia a little less.  Fall on our knees a little less.

And God weeps.  God weeps for Trayvon and all the children who have known a violent death at the hands of another.  God weeps for his mother and all the mothers who grieve for children who were snatched from their embrace sooner than they could have in a million years, dreamed.  God weeps for those who take another life and snuff it out, as if their hands did not possess the Divine thread.  God weeps for those who seek "justice" in ways that beget violence.  God weeps when we turn our heads from that which startles us or makes us uncomfortable...or when we ignore the violence that we have a hand in perpetrating.  God weeps when we lose heart...when our souls fail to sing...when our eyes dry with apathy.  God weeps...

Yes.  God weeps this day. 

But let that be enough.  Let the Divine Tears take our jadedness and our exhaustion and our grief and our fear and our that we might rise above it and be who we have been called and ordained to be.  That is...let us be and act and react as those who are knit together by the Divine...created and sustained by the Divine...called GOOD by the Divine...and sent out by the Divine.  Let us be those who are life-giving and not death-dealing...justice oriented and not ego oriented.  Let us act in ways that require great feats of love, rather than disdain or apathy or listlessness.  Let us react in ways that are grace filled and not retaliation minded. 

Let us, dear Lord, be the people of God...

Thanks be to God...


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

FYI: A New Blog

I'm managing a new blog these days...for the church.  There will be a few of my musings, as well as, denominational information and updates, for those of you who are into that sort of thing....

If you're interested in popping over there, you can find it at:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Red: Rhubarb Pie

Just out of seminary, my husband and I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona… he to serve a church in the area, and me, to serve as the regional minister of youth and children’s programming… which meant, among other things, that I coordinated our summer camping program. 

Now for those of you who have grown up in an area where you enjoyed camping as a family… count yourselves lucky.  Ten years of Girl Scouts turned me into a fire building machine… but they were skills lost upon the folks of Arizona, as most of those kids that came to camp, had never even seen an open flame, let alone sung songs around a campfire or given God thanks for the sweet gooey goodness that is a s’more.  And all that’s because, the entire state of Arizona is under some level of fire danger at any given time, during the hottest months of the year.
The church camp was about 3 hours north of Phoenix, nestled in the midst of an area of Arizona, that was part coniferous forest and part desert… as many lovely, awe inspiring evergreen trees populating the sky as there were unique and awkward cacti at your feet.  And as the summer drew on and the days between rain events grew… 22 days, 36 days, 54 days… both the evergreens and the cacti would strain under the desire to draw what little moisture might be in the dry ground, upward, with little success.  And each summer… those of us in leadership at camp, spent a good portion of our time, tied to the local news radio, monitoring which way the mighty rush of wind might blow… and if it would bring with it, tongues of fire.

The youth that gathered at that camp, were thankfully, almost always blissfully unaware of this threat of wind and fire in their midst. They would run and play, and sing song at the dinner table, make new friends, flirt with another, and reconnect with old friends whose lives only intersected once a year.   

But one summer, as bags were being packed and the final day of camp was winding to a close…  the winds… they changed. And were bringing with them, fire.  Suddenly, tearful goodbyes, turned into tears of fear.  Parents rushed up the mountain towards the camp, praying they would make it back home before the roads closed. Leaders allowed cell phones to be out as boy and girl alike, made frantic calls to loved ones who were waiting in church parking lots, hoping, praying that their children would be safe and make it home in the church vans that they had entrusted them to...
Group by group, one by one… youth and leaders waved goodbye with worried looks in their eyes.  And I waved back… mirroring their worry, as I waited with the final few youth to find their rides and head home.  Soon, it was just me… and one camper.  Waiting. 

I don’t normally condone a one adult/ one child situation… but this day, it seemed prudent to send the other counselors and adults home, to race the flames that now… though not visible, were making our eyes water and our nose hairs tingle.    
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the girls mother showed… with a quick wave and a mouthed “I’m sorry”… she spewed gravel out behind her wheels in her hurried attempt to outrun…

The wind and fire.
And within minutes, I too was in my car… heading south on the road I had traveled so many times before… when I came to the first barricade.  The flames were dancing across the road now… I could see them.  They were real.  Red, orange, white, and black.  And above it, a red cloud of smoke.   A Fireman motioned for me to turn around… directing me to head North… to go a different way...and I did as I was instructed…

And then I felt it… the heat… the amazing, overwhelming heat.  And the weight upon my chest, like being in a sauna for too long… and that’s when I realize that I was now, driving parallel to a wall of flame.  Just like that… with a simple shift in the wind, the forest full of mile high trees and carpets of cacti, which I had just driven through, was being reduced to charred remnants of what was…

Wind and fire.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were gathered together in one place.  And suddenly there came a noise from heaven like a mighty, rushing wind, and it filled the building where they were sitting.  And there appeared something like tongues of fire, distributed to all and resting on each.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, as the Spirit gave them speech.” Acts 2: 1-4

That's Pentecost.  Unpredictable.  Urgent.  Dancing.  Destroying.  Awe-inspiring.  Weighty.

And so, in honor of Pentecost, here's something red (the liturgical color of Pentecost) for you.... Rhubarb Pie.

What you'll need for the crust:
2 Cups almond flour 
1/4 Teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Egg
What you'll need for the crumble top:
1/2 Cup GF flour mixture
1/4 Cup almond flour
1/3 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter (cut into bits; if using salted, go ahead and cut the salt back a bit)

What you'll need for the filling:
6 Cups rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons cornstarch (be aware, this is tricky for some GF an alternative, is arrowroot)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350*.  In a food processor, pulse almond flour, coconut oil, salt and egg together until it starts to come together and form a ball. Press the crust into a 9 inch pie pan firmly; this isn't a crust like your granny used to's not pretty, but it'll get it done.  Then bake it at 350* for about 8-10 minutes or just until it starts to brown.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. With your hands, a pastry blender, or if you're lazy like me, your paddle attachment on your Kitchen Aid, work the butter into the dry ingredients until clumps form. Keep this chilled until you're ready to use it.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss well to evenly coat the rhubarb with the dry ingredients. Transfer this mixture to the pie shell.  Swoon over how pretty it is.  Scatter the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the pie.

Bake until the rhubarb is bubbling and the crust is browned, about one hour. If the crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Cool completely (or at the very least, until you can't stand it anymore) before serving.

This is my first time EVER, to make rhubarb anything....and I LOVED IT!!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did...all two, extra large helpings.  With ice cream.  And an extra spoonful, when I was putting it away tonight (you GOTTA clean the spoon off).

Oh, who am I kiddin'.  I had three helpings and I liked it.

Tomorrow's another day to find the gym....

Might the Spirit surprise you today.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Snow Days: Cutie Cake

I mentioned that my husband and I are doing this elimination diet, right?
Well, we're still on it.  (We cheated one, really cheated with butter and sugar and maybe even some wheat flour*...and decided just to start over.  It's better for us and we feel more energetic and blah, blah, blah...)
This past weekend we had one of those rare winter May...where neither of us had anything to do and it was snowing/sleeting/freezing, so we stayed in our sweats all weekend and watched DVR'd episodes of The Following and Modern Family. And ate Cuties.  Like a three pound bag, in two days.  For the second time, since we started this food-body exploration.
They are our addiction.
My guess is, when your fingers are stained've had one too many.  Interventions are forthcoming.
But until then, here's a Cutie Cake. Because I gotta get my Cuties however I can and I hear that the quickest, easiest way to get the Cuties into your system is through baked goods.  And your parents won't ever even know. 
What you'll need:
6 Eggs
1/4 Cup coconut oil (melted)
1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon coconut milk
2 Tablespoons raw honey
Juice from 2 Cuties
Zest from 2 Cuties
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Cup coconut flour
1/4 (+/-) Cup shredded coconut
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 More Cuties for the juice
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8x8 pan with coconut oil or line it with parchment paper.  I wrestle with parchment paper for some reason.  And, I like any way that will allow me to add more fat to my cooking. Mix the eggs, coconut milk, honey, juice, vanilla, orange zest and coconut oil together.  Add in the coconut flour, coconut, baking powder and salt.  When well combined, pour the batter into your greased pan and bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  But be careful not to can get a little dry. Then, while it's still warm, go ahead and juice two more Cuties on top of the whole thing!  And enjoy!

* That little asterisk, is for a peculiar turn of events.  We attended an event called Forks and Corks, where restaurants from all over the KC Metro area come out, serve their best stuff, and all the proceeds go to a local food bank.  We go every year.  It's a blast, but not really one of those events where you can take your time and ask each chef what each item, is made with (flour, corn, etc.).  So, I always load up on meds, inhalers, and Tums and take my chances (I'm not reckless...I don't eat pastries or pasta, but you never know what's tucked into something).  Anyway, I accidentally ate a large spoonful of cake (not realizing what I was ingesting) and....I didn't react.  I think this elimination diet is allowing my body, in all of its inflamed ways, to chill enough, that small doses...I might be able to incorporate wheat back in to my diet someday?  I don't know?  does that just sound like "bad science?"  We'll see.  Fingers crossed.