Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hotdog Mayhem: Coconut Custard Cake

Today, is Sunday.  And in theory, what is most memorable about the day, should be our celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day, our worship of the Lord, and the beautiful opportunity we are granted, to come together and find our center in the Spirit. 

But the only memory I, and SEVEN other people will walk away with from this day, will be the fact that we spent 70 minutes talking about hotdogs.  Three packages of hotdogs.

Said packages of hotdogs, which were set aside for a youth event, disappeared over the weekend.  It wasn't the end of the world.  I went and bought three new packages of hotdogs.  For a whopping total of $4.87 (I splurged and went for the good ones!).  But you would have thought the world was ending. Really, seriously, ending.

So for 70 minutes, seven people discussed:

Who could have taken our hotdogs?
Why would they have taken our hotdogs?
Were the hotdogs properly identified?
Who decides where hotdogs are stored for optimum security?
How will we recoup all that money we lost?
How do we secure our hotdogs in the future?
What should the "Do Not Eat Our Hotdogs" sign say?
What would the proper placement be, for said sign?
How should we move forward after this blatant breach of trust?


I don't.  I don't care if someone eats our hotdogs.   

I wish I did.  But I don't.

And we wonder why people are leaving the church? 

Maybe...and I'm just throwin' this out there...but MAYBE it's because we're talking about hotdogs.  And not how Jesus Christ calls to us and bids us to be co-workers for Kingdom in the world.  Or how God gives us name and claims us as good...but we don't always act like it.  Or how the Holy Spirit seeks us out and guides our hearts to others. 

Maybe people are leaving the church...not because they don't "get it" or love baby Jesus...but because we spend 70 minutes talking about hotdogs.  And not what matters.

So, here's 70 minutes well spent.  Or at least, spent doing something that will nourish you.

Coconut Custard Cake.  Let's not talk about it...just make it, enjoy it, and give thanks that you've been fed.

What you'll need:

4 Eggs
2 Cups light coconut milk (canned, not the boxed drink)
1/4 Cup coconut oil
1/4 Honey
1 Teaspoon vanilla
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Cup coconut flour
1 1/2 Cups unsweetened coconut

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 350*.  Lightly grease your 8x8 or 9x9 cake pan with a bit of coconut oil. 

Throw all the wet ingredients in your mixer bowl and mix until really well incorporated.   Add the flour and baking powder.  Mix it.  Don't over think it, don't wonder why, don't question the motives of the coconut flour.  Just do it.  Then add the coconut and mix that in too.

Bake for 45-55 minutes until a pick, poked into the middle of the cake, comes out clean.

Try a bit while it's still most egg based, custard-y type'll be good, but the flavors really take off, when it's cooled.  And enjoy.

It might just be the best 70 minutes of your day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Flood Gates and Food: Sweet Potato and Poblano Pepper Hash

Last week wore me out.  Emotionally.  Physically.  Spiritually. 

And on Friday night, I needed comfort food.  Hearty, spicy, fill me up, comfort food.

Several weeks ago, Brett and I went on this "elimination diet" that required us to bid farewell to the good things in life.  It's a long list, but includes things like eggs, butter, corn, and sugar.  All things I would marry, if I wasn't already.

I'm good with rules...if I can't eat something because it's the "rule," I simply won't eat it.  No cheating.  No nibble off of a corner.  No real longing, even.  It's why being allergic to wheat, really hasn't been too bad. 

Oh sure, there have been days when I've writhed around on the floor as Brett sunk his teeth into a donut or craved a piece of cake so bad, that I ended up eating three pounds of unsatisfying chocolate and peanut butter in an attempt to satiate.  But for the most part, the rules don't bother me.

So eliminating foods, hasn't been the issue. 

Adding them back where I've run into troubles.  The theory is, you eliminate all the foods that are "known allergens" (i.e. dairy, corn, wheat, soy, peanuts, sugar, and eggs) and then, after a three week "cleansing" period, you add one food back, each week, and measure how you feel. 

Well, now the rules have been loosened.  And it's like Niagara Falls over here. Flood gates. Open.  Everywhere.

"Oh, I can eat eggs...well then, that means I can make cake and omelets and pancakes and scrambled eggs and......"

So it's why, having never made a "hash" in my life, I decided to do so....because I could. (And admittedly, I was heavily influenced by the contestants on Chopped...they always seems to be making a hash, of some sort.)

You will not be disappointed.  It's spicy and rich and whole and delightful.

I present to you, the keeper of the gate: Sweet Potato and Poblano Pepper Hash.

What you'll need:

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Large sweet potato (scrubbed up real nice, like it's about to meet the in-laws for the first time.)
2 Poblano peppers (sliced)
1/2 Red onion (diced)
1/2 White onion (diced)
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like it spicy, so do this "to taste" but remember that the addition of eggs and later, avocado, will temper the heat a bit.)
2 Garlic cloves (minced, or in my case, squeezed out of a convenient bottle.)
Dash or two of paprika, cumin (go light on this), salt, pepper
2 Large eggs
1 Avocado (diced)
4 Tablespoon cilantro (chopped)

What to do:

Heat coconut oil in your skillet over a medium heat. Add the diced sweet 'tater (I leave the skin on) but be aware that coconut oil seems to have a serious splatter factor, so take caution. Let that cook up a bit, adding the pepper flakes, garlic, and other spices while you're waiting around.  Then add the onion and poblano pepper. 

Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 5 minutes, until the potatoes begin to soften (that lid lets you "steam" the 'taters, getting them soft and fluffy). Now stir before they start to really stick to the bottom and continue to do so, until you've reached the desired softness (I like my sweet potatoes to have a bit of a I don't cook them as long as some folks.)

Crack two eggs on top of the hash. Seriously, don't be shy here.  Just put the eggs right there on top of the potato/pepper mixture, making sure that you don't break the yolk (the yolk will add a sweetness to the dish, that you wouldn't yummy).  Cover with that tight fitting lid again and allow the eggs to cook another 4ish minutes until the whites are set. Serve immediately topped with the fresh cilantro and diced avocado.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Body: Act and React

About a month ago, a 20 year old in our congregation died.  He was remotely connected...grew up in the church...but as most young adults do (heck, as most older adults do), he found his respite and wholeness in places outside of the church.  But still.  It took the breath out of me. 

It made my body ache for the mother and the father, nodding and smiling, eyes glazed, as 100's and 100's of by, to pay their respects at the funeral home.  It made my teeth hurt, to watch this young mans little sister - eight years old - play with her "funeral toys," seemingly unfazed by her surroundings. And my heart ached for the grandmother and grandfather who sat in the pew, just in front of the pulpit, that very next Sunday.

Grief is a full experience.  There are stages.  Sure.  But when grief hits hurts everywhere.  And there are no "stages."  It just hurts.

Unfortunately, as image after image of Boston and Iran and Pakistan and North Korea and South Korea and West and Iraq is flashed before our eyes, we forget to feel.  We forget to feel the sting of death in ways that propel us to be and act and react differently in the world.  And we shut down.  We let congress handle it, with their bombs and their politicized statements of regret.  We let the news media tell us what is sad (a 20 year old, Boston, West) and what is not sad (Iraq, North Korea).  We let our ministers and our priests pray for us because somewhere in the back of our minds, we assume God must be behind this, and that gives us pause.  We let the anonymity of Facebook and Twitter teach us what we should believe, if we love Jesus... or are good Americans... or support our troops... or love babies and puppies.  We let those around us "tsk" and say "what a shame" in hushed tones, because words escape even the most talkative. 

We shut down. 

It's too much.  The body aches.  The mind short circuits.  The soul weeps. 

Here me say: This is normal.  Let it happen.  Really.  I know it's hard.  But really, let it happen.  And changed by it, be propelled by the pain, act and react differently today.

Give blood. Practice patience. Really listen to another. Extend a hand, when it would be easier to walk away. Love deeply and tell someone the reasons why. Live peace. Recycle.  Dance with a child.  Pray even when you're not sure how to believe.

And let your body ache.  Feel.

Then maybe, we'll begin to see the world differently. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Running: Boston

I ran for two minutes today.  Not because I needed the exercise (even though I do), or because it's part of my routine (even though it should be), or because I'm super fit (even though the "two minute" proclamation assumes great fitness *sarcasm*)...but because for me, it hurts.

I am not a runner.  I've never been a runner...even when I was super fit and super body just doesn't like to function at speeds greater than 3 miles per hour. 

But I've been and am, passionate about certain things.  Like the church (though it infuriates me).  And ice cream (even though it's the reason I should be running).  And photography (even though I don't have the proper tools).  I love to travel (even though we don't get to do much of it).  And I love animals (even though the one laying on my foot right now, is snoring so loud I can't concentrate).

And so I get it.  A little.

I get what it means to love something so much, that you're willing to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to put your money into your gear, rather than your house or your car or your stuff.  I get what it means to find joy beyond description when you've gone a little farther or done something a little different, one day.  And I understand what it means to set goals and enter contests that you know you'll never win.  I know what it's like to call strangers "friends" simply because your hearts beat for the same passion.  I get it.

And that's why our hearts ache for those in Boston today.  And will, for some time.  As those who found their passion on the streets, urged their limbs to do the unimaginable, matching each breath with the pounding of rubber on find themselves wracked with new fear and find themselves with limbs that don't work the way they used to and find themselves clinging for breath, period. 

And so today, I ran for two minutes.  Not because I should (even though it's probably a good idea). Or because I love it (because I really don't). 

But because today, there are those who can't.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Church: Intentionality

One thing most faith communities struggle with, is intentionality.

It wasn’t too long ago… maybe 50-60 years…that the intention of the mainline Protestant church was to provide community. So folks would get together for worship, bridge club, youth group, and CWF to find their community. Their best friend sat in the pew next to them and their children played together.

Then, in the 80’s, as those children grew up and the “best friends” grew older, the churches intention was to make us “better people.” The self-help industry had taken off and churches claimed “making us feel good” as their primary task. So preachers taught studies titled “10 Steps Through Jesus, to a Bigger Bank Account” (I’m not making that up) and The Purpose Driven-ish Everything.
By the early 2000’s, as church membership began its exponential slide, the intention became membership retention. Panic sort of set in as churches were left with oversized recreation centers and office complexes. We started battening down the hatches and stopped sharing our resources and the intention became self-preservation.

And now it’s 2013 and churches EVERYWHERE are wondering what their intention is? How do we answer the “why church” question?
We’ve noticed that “self-perseveration” isn’t working. And we know that the church isn’t about us, as individuals (we only have to read the Bible in a cursory way, to get that much) and making sure we “feel good” (though a by-product of our faith and participation in community, often makes us feel good…it’s not the objective). And it doesn’t take much to notice that we’re finding our community on the soccer field sidelines, the book club, and our business networks.

So what is our intention?
I don’t know the answer to the question. I don’t. I mean of course, I have some thoughts on the matter…but the “why church?” question, HAS to be answered by the people of God, the community that has gathered and called this place or that place, church.

The church is changing.  That much is sure.  But even the most seasoned...and the most youthful...pastors and leaders, don't have a clue what that looks like.  So maybe it's time to define our intention.  A new intention.  A God intention.  Then maybe the rest will fall into place.

Because as beautiful as this is...

It can't be ALL there is.