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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Manna From Heaven

I am waiting upon God's timing and provision for work these days. It is a daily discipline, and more and more I am seeing how little patience and faith I truly have. I am used to having a plan and making things happen. But for now, I have a clear sense that that is exactly what I am not supposed to be doing.

Instead I am growing, very slowly, in learning how to pray about things daily, with open hands. And this week, I discovered another way to cultivate reliance on God.


That's right. Through food.

For years my friend Mo has called our pantry "Y2K" because it is ridiculously overloaded with a ton of stuff - from overenthusiastic Costco runs to leftovers from youth group events to ambitious purchases from Trader Joe's. Couple that with a bursting bag each week from Fairview Gardens, and I have more than enough to eat.

BUT... regardless of how much I have, I usually think I am still missing that one *necessary* ingredient for a certain recipe I just found, or lacking something I am craving.... and off to the store I go!

However, since I am learning in new ways how God provides, I decided this week to create "manna" meals (see Exodus 16 for a refreshing reminder of this story) out of what I have already received.

In other words, I got a little inspired. So I'm sharing two recipes for meals I just made up myself, out of the bounty of what I have been given. I don't want to ever be caught grumbling like those ancient Israelites... I have a full tummy and a warm bed. I am inordinately blessed!


1 onion, sliced in half moons
2 tsp crushed garlic (or more, if you really like garlic)
4 slices uncured bacon
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 large bunch beet greens, cut roughly
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1-2 carrots, diced
6 c vegetable broth (Amount can vary based on whether you want this to be more like soup or stew)
1 c uncooked barley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley

1. Cook bacon in large pot till crispy. Remove bacon and set aside. Sauté onion and garlic in bacon grease till onion browns slightly. Add potato and carrot, and cook in the bacon grease until vegetables soften - about 5 minutes.

2. Pour in the vinegar and cook, stirring, until the flavor mellows, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Throw in beet greens and all spices, reducing heat to low. (Broth will get pink-colored, which is kinda cool!)

4. Cover pot and cook for at least 1 hour. (But it can cook longer). Use potato masher to break down the soup after it has cooked for the hour.

5. Half an hour before you want to eat, pour in barley and return cover to pot. Stir occasionally.

Top with shredded parmesan before serving. Add warm french bread and a glass of wine.


Half package of defrosted Trader Joe's Vegetable Gyoza (usually crammed in the back of your freezer, forgotten, like mine was....)
1 bundle of udon noodles, uncooked
1 cup shelled and cooked fava beans (see directions for preparation below)
1 carrot, diced very small (because I hate carrots. But God provided them, so I just add them for color!)
1-2 yukon gold potatoes (can you tell I had a bag of potatoes??)
3-4 chard leaves
1/2 c fresh cilantro, diced
1 tb soy sauce
2 tb rice vinegar
1 tb sesame oil
1 tsp salt

1. Shell 1 lb of fava beans. Bring pot of water to boil and put beans in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, rinse beans with cold water. After allowing them to cool, squeeze beans from white outer shells. (Yes, they are a lot of work, but they're worth it)

2. Boil another pot of water and cook udon noodles. Rinse and set aside.

3. Poke the potatoes a few times with a fork, then place in microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (until soft). Dice them up into small cubes. Then place the chard leaves in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Dice up roughly

4. Cut gyoza in half and place in bowl. Toss in shelled fava beans, diced chard leaves, carrot, potato, cilantro, udon noodles. Pour in soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and salt. Toss everything together well.

5. Cover bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

This meal wasn't real pretty, but YUM it tasted good!
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. (Exodus 16:4)

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Don't Know What to Say

Sometimes heavy things press in on my heart. Right now, I am broken-hearted at the loss and continuous suffering of ones I love. There is nothing to say that would comfort. When I pray at times like this, I am confounded as well.

God can handle this -- silence and sadness, that is. He would rather we come to him in tears, in anger, with shaking fists, than have us wander away, shut down and closed off. The Garden of Gethsemane is a painting of such profound horror and fear.

When it feels this way, I often look for a hymn - one that can speak for me and tease out the words held captive inside. The psalms do that too.

Last night I bought a 2-CD set of Fernando Ortega singing hymns (nice and cheap - $5.49 on Amazon). They make the dark, twisty feelings sound better...

This one works for today.
I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
Stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power,
When Thou art nigh.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fabulous Online Concerts - don't pass it up

I know it's not Monday, but I was not in a space to talk about music earlier this week.

Anyway, I cannot keep this news to myself. If you enjoy some of the newer music out there, or want to hear more of it in an uninterrupted way, go to this link for All Songs Considered - Live Concerts.

It is like Christmas every day. These are solid recordings of live concerts by tremendous musicians - M. Ward, Neko Case, Mates of State, Thao, Blitzen Trapper, Blind Pilot, The Decemberists, The Avett Brothers... incredible. We all know that live concerts capture qualities in the music and in the performers that cannot be reproduced in a studio... I cannot believe we can get this for free.

I'm listening to Vienna Teng right now - if you like unadorned piano work and a unique female voice, along with tremendous lyrics, tune in. Glorious.

PS Don't miss out on the All Songs Considered website itself - plus subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. With the search function you can plug in the artists you're interested in and find past concerts, interviews, reviews, etc. It's like Christmas... Eve?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blue Monday

I lost a friend last night. His name was Steve Birch. He was a great dad to guys from my old youth group, a tremendous husband and son, a remarkably hospitable host who hosted countless events for us and so many others, a gifted and generous doctor and surgeon, an advocate for many - including my dear friend Claire as she suffers for so long from a brain tumor, and finally, an adventurous risk-taker. We thought he'd avert this disaster like he had all the other ones, but sadly, it was not the case.

My reading in cranky old Ecclesiastes put words to some of my grief today. From Chapter 7, in the Message:
3 Crying is better than laughing.
It blotches the face but it scours the heart.

4 Sages invest themselves in hurt and grieving.
Fools waste their lives in fun and games.

10 Don't always be asking, "Where are the good old days?"
Wise folks don't ask questions like that.

14 On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won't take anything for granted.

Rest well Steve. I look forward to being reunited with you one day. Your wry humor, your subtle comments and your level head served me in so many ways. I only hope I can give as much as you did to so many folks. And I pray for all of us left behind - especially his family. No words.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Free for You

Here's a quick goodie for you... if you haven't gotten sick of my raving about Vegetarian Times, I have good news. They are making their April issue available for free digitally. I haven't gotten to try any of the recipes yet, but I have post-its tagging several:
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes & Baby Spinach Masala
  • Soda Bread Scones
  • Whole-Wheat Shells with Asparagus, Peas, Feta & Mint
  • Spring Vegetable Risotto with Goat Cheese
  • Mayan Spiced Chocolate Pudding (seriously??)

So here goes: free digital issue for April!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things...

It's a glorious Saturday... lots of good things to celebrate and enjoy...
  • Homemade soy latte this morning - Peet's coffee, of course, made with my Italian stovetop espresso maker.
  • Ecclesiastes in The Message - God show so much gumption by including this book in the Bible. Rock on.
  • 90 minute bike ride -- so stoked I never get tired of riding my bike. I saw bougainvillea nearly vibrate with color and marguerite daisies and citrus trees and poppies everywhere...
  • I listened to great podcasts and music as I rode.
  • My latest issue of Vegetarian Times arrived in the mail. More cool recipes will appear here, I'm sure.
  • Discovered two great new blogs -- Orangette and Victory Home Garden. Both cool locavore blogs.
  • Spring has sprung! Birds are singing up a storm outside my window... blue belly lizards are doing their quirky little push ups in the heat of the sun... orchids are bursting in bloom on my patio, salmon-colored and butter yellow roses are all over the bushes in front, our basil plant keeps giving us its wonderful leaves. Even my spunky succulents are blooming with flowers.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Recipe, April 16, 2009

I have already made this twice in the last month. It is DIVINE.


Custardy bread pudding with a sweet, dark sauce is a New Orleans dessert favorite. Day-old bread works best here because it absorbs more of the custard before baking.

(I'm giving you the full recipe here - but I've only made the half recipe myself, placing the bread and custard in a loaf pan. In the half recipe I use 2 large eggs and 1 egg white. The half recipe makes 3 large servings = 2" by 3")

3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 c skim milk
3/4 c maple syrup (I use maple agave from Trader Joe's)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
5 c dubed day-old whole-wheat sandwich bread = 1 inch cubes (I use day-old sourdough from my bread machine)
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c dried cranberries

1 c light brown sugar
1/4 c kahlua or bourbon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together eggs, egg white, milk, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in large bowl. Fold in cubed bread, raisins and dried cranberries. Let stand 5 minutes to allow bread to absorb custard.

Coat 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray, then spread bread mixture in pan. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until you can press center of pudding and no raw egg mixture rises up. Cool slightly, then cut into 8 squares.

To make sauce, combine sugar and 1/2 c water in small saucepan. Bring to boil over med high heat, and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in bourbon or kahlua. Return to heat, and boil 2 minutes more. Transfer to pitcher and cool slightly. Pour sauce over pudding squares.

(Pssst... I top this with a little whipped cream.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spiritual Reading

I received this today from the Henri Nouwen Society in their daily newsletter.
Reading Spiritually About Spiritual Things

Reading often means gathering information, acquiring new insight and knowledge, and mastering a new field. It can lead us to degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Spiritual reading, however, is different. It means not simply reading about spiritual things but also reading about spiritual things in a spiritual way. That requires a willingness not just to read but to be read, not just to master but to be mastered by words. As long as we read the Bible or a spiritual book simply to acquire knowledge, our reading does not help us in our spiritual lives. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming truly spiritual people.

As we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God's voice. Sometimes we must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through its words.
Are you pausing each day to read spiritually?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pascal Rocks My World

I read a small section by him today. These two passages stood out:
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of Christians, is a God of love and consolation, a God who fills the souls and hearts of His own, a God who makes them feel their inward wretchedness and His infinite mercy, who unites Himself to their inmost spirit, filling it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, rendering them incapable of any end other than Himself...

The God of Christians is a God who makes the soul perceive that He is her only good, that her only rest is in Him, her only joy in loving Him.
(Blaise Pascal)

I am thankful that I grow in hunger for Him. As Pascal writes, He is my soul's only good...

I pray for the perseverance to seek after Him most and first, rather than the success of this world.
The fear of human opinion disables;
trusting in God protects you from that.
(Proverbs 29:25)

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Music Monday + Odds 'n Ends

I'm going to pump up my newest music website fave again - Brite Revolution. You can join for $5/month, and then download a bunch o' music from solid artists, many of whom I really like. I'm doing my April shopping, and it's good stuff from some of my standby favorites:
  • Andrew Osenga
  • Randall Goodgame
  • Caedmon's Call
  • Andy Davis
Plus I just took several songs each from two guys I'd never heard before that struck my fancy:
  • John Moessner
  • Griffin House
Yes, my tastes can tend to run with sort of folkie, indie, lots of piano and guitar, lyric-heavy music -- but there are other options available if you like a different sound.

By far, the best thing about this site is that a portion of your $5 monthly fee goes to support social justice causes like International Justice Mission, Compassion International, Invisible Children, Save Darfur, etc. Each artist gets to pick the cause their music will support, so you get a peek into what they care about. It's all good.

Odds 'n Ends... In no particular order....
  • Pondered this in the line at CVS today as I picked up my prescriptions: Why do men's ears grow so much bigger as they get older?
  • My housemate captured this photo while I reading my Bible on Saturday morning... yes, it's true... I'm a Cat Lady. It's hopeless.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Creative Autobiography - Question #3

Thanks for your comments and emails on the post from April 4. I did #2 on my own, and don't feel like passing on my response to the worldwide web...

If you want to skip the intro to April 4's post, I quoted a book I'm reading on developing "creative habits." The author includes a questionnaire for readers to better understand their "creative DNA." In other words, the questions help you think about what makes you tick creatively... what story you're trying to tell, why you do the things you do, where you are strong and where you are weak.

"What's the best idea you've ever had?"

I am in a bit of a quandary. Decisions are not ideas, right? And the question is about ideas. But I think certain decisions are, at their hearts, “ideas.” Decisions lead to ideas, and ideas lead to decisions… They are separate, but often interwoven in the realities of life.

But I digress. So what is my “best” idea? I will pick my most creative one in recent years: choosing to ride my bike as an exercise in stewardship.

In May 03 our church did a Bible study on stewardship – of body, mind, earth, money, time. I was very moved by this study, and decided that if became a committed bicycle commuter, that I would cover 3 of these areas of spiritual discipline in better ways – I would get more regular exercise (body), I would pollute the environment far less (earth), and I would spend less on gas (money). Certainly, it was a decision (there I go again!), but it was an idea as well, because it was hazy and vague at first.

As I played out this idea though, more and more things – decisions, at times – emerged from this initial idea, one leading to another. Here’s a loose recollection of how things progressed:
  • I started with the goal of using my bike instead of my car once a day.
  • I sought to use my car only once a day.
  • I made it my goal to go without using my car a day at a time.
  • I started building my schedule around trying to consolidate (or eliminate) certain errands, take the bus, or buy less so I could carry my purchases on my bike.
  • I got far more intentional about recycling. Trash decreased.
  • My housemate bought a composter. Trash decreased even more.
  • I read about how much water is used to raise beef, and decided that was poor stewardship of resources and very oppressive to the poor (who lost land and water resources to livestock agriculture). So I stopped eating beef.
  • I started giving saved funds (from not buying gas for my car) to Lifewater, Christian ministry that brings clean drinking water to the poor.
  • I discovered the #1 health problem in the world is clean drinking water.
  • I started walking more for my errands – the grocery store, bus stops, etc. I needed to drive less and less.
  • I discovered CSA goodness last year. Enough said earlier in this blog about that.
  • I started hanging up my laundry on a clothesline, and washing my clothes in cold water.
  • A friend of mine told me she prays when she hangs up laundry, so I've been trying that ….
Clearly, this path of stewardship has created many new habits for me – in May it will be six years since that idea first came up.

This single choice to ride my bike has led me to so much reading, praying, listening, learning – about the poor, my faith, the way I see the rest of the world, the way I spend my money, the environment, social justice… All of it has been very creative and stretching for me. And I still have so far to go!

I am just now realizing as I think about all this that I ended up pursing the other two areas of spiritual discipline from that May 03 stewardship study as well. Riding my bike dramatically adjusted my use of time, and it affected my mind too. Fancy that. I've slowed down enough on my bike to see birds, talk to pedestrians on the corner, see the clouds, notice the wildflowers. That is a little harder to do on the freeway, right?

I feel like I have said enough, so I’ll spare you for now on how my thought life has been affected by this “best idea." But now that I have shared my experience, I’m curious to hear from you. Pause and ponder: What is the best idea you’ve ever had? What has it created?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday

First two quotes taken from Christian Quotation of the Day

[Jesus:] "I have told you these things, so that in me you
may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take
heart! I have overcome the world."
-- John 16:33 (NIV)

There remains for us only the very narrow way, often
extremely difficult to find, of living every day as though it
were our last, and yet living in faith and responsibility as
though there were to be a great future.
... Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Don't brashly announce what you're going to do tomorrow;
you don't know the first thing about tomorrow.
Proverbs 27:1 (The Message)
This is liberty: to know that God alone matters.
Donald Hankey

I am grateful that my life in this season is taking me a few inches closer to understanding some of these words and living more deeply in the truth of them.

May your Easter celebrations surprise you. Enter them expectantly.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The US and Turkey

This blog confines itself mostly to spiritual reflections, music reviews, recipes and occasional rants about eating local produce!

However, something has been on my mind and heart for the last couple of days - ever since the news has been giving reports of President Obama's visit to Turkey.

I visited Turkey in May 2005, and I fell in love with the country. Not only was I extremely impressed with its many unique qualities and political history; I was also stunned at how extensive the reach of the early church had been in this part of the world -- and deeply saddened at how infinitesimally small the presence of Christians is there today.

Turkey sits on the crossroads of all major ancient civilizations. It is both European and Asian - Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. It is directly north of the highly contentious Middle East. Turkey desperately wants to join the European Union, and gain status, acceptance and credibility with Europe (and thus the world). It also has the 2nd largest army in NATO (US Army being the 1st largest, of course), and is 99% Muslim. It has significant influence with Russia and Iran, and is self-sustaining in terms of food and nearly all other consumer goods. Turkey has learned how to take of itself, and not rely on any other countries.

This is the beginning of the article from NPR yesterday on President Obama's visit:
President Obama's visit to Turkey was a balancing act that stretched — like Turkey itself — between Europe and the Islamic world.

Much has been made of the fact that this was Obama's first visit as president to a majority Muslim country. Before departing on Tuesday, he held talks with religious leaders and visited Istanbul's Blue Mosque, one of Turkey's most famous landmarks.

Foreign policy analysts point to the substantial amount of work to be done to improve U.S. relations with the Islamic world.

In a speech Monday before Turkey's parliament, Obama stressed Turkey's ties to the West and its importance to the U.S. as a military and diplomatic power. He made a point of saying that the U.S. "is not and never will be at war with Islam."

When I visited Turkey in 05, we were treated very well by most Turks, especially those we talked with for any length of time. However, in the capital city of Ankara, we had trash thrown at us and epithets against Bush and America shouted in our direction.

I am encouraged by Obama's overtures with Turkey, for a variety of political reasons. But apart from tensions with Iran, the war in Iraq, a need for a thaw in relations with Russia, ongoing improvement in our relationships with the Muslim world, and the need for a strong ally in the Arab/Muslim world (especially in regard to the Middle East), I am most thankful that improved relations with Turkey could open the door for Christians to worship more freely in Turkey and extend their reach.

If you have read much of the New Testament, you may recognize the names of these ancient cities where churches once thrived in Asia Minor -- AKA, Turkey! Ephesus, Colosse, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Attalia, Alexandria Troas, Assos, Hierapolis, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. Cappadocia, Perge, Derbe.

A remarkable list. What's more remarkable though is that there is nearly no remnant or ancestry left of these churches today. When we visited the site where Colosse once stood, it was a non-descript, unexcavated hill. When our guide was asked why nothing has been done with this obvious treasure trove archaeologically, he said, The Turkish government has no interest in Christian sites. Period.

So today, when I heard further reports on the news about our president's visit to Turkey, and how both countries are committed to improving relations, I was grateful. I stopped right there and prayed that this would be so, and that out of that the church could thrive anew. Turkey is a very secular country. We saw very little practice of Islam while we were there. The people of Turkey need the hope of the gospel. May the seeds of the church expand a hundred fold.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The sublime & the mundane

On April 2 I wrote about why I enjoy belonging to a CSA:
...as I've mentioned here before, I've learned better how to WAIT and anticipate the various seasons and what foods they bring. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this result has had great spiritual implications as well for me.
Apparently, it does not go without saying because a couple of friends have asked me to expand on this. Here goes....
  • To not be able to eat a food that I want because it is not in season is a simple, daily reminder that I cannot always get my way. "Have it your way" is a lie.
  • My weekly share at the CSA is my portion for the week. I make due with what I have, and I am thankful. As my friend Frank said about this, "Just like the manna in the wilderness." I have no right to complain. God provides plenty of food every week.
  • Furthermore, in eating new foods I am reminded that I need to be flexible and be open to new things. I had never eaten kale before last year. If you had asked me if I liked kale back then, I would have just said No. I was wrong! Now it is a staple of my winter diet - I put it in scrambled eggs, soups and pasta dishes. I love it. I have a lot to learn.
  • Just because I want fresh blueberries in January does not mean I am entitled to them. It is a gross consumption of energy and an unnecessary production of carbon emissions to transport them from the Southern Hemisphere. I want to be a better steward of God's creation.
  • Looking forward to the seasons and what they bring makes the anticipation all the sweeter. I've learned how to delight in greens in winter, but I also can't wait for big juicy tomatoes in late summer. This is good practice for me. I receive each day as a gift from God; at the same time, I eagerly await eternal life.
Go to Sustainable Table for more info as to when foods are in season.

As for "New Music Monday"... I got nuthin' this week.

Have a blessed Holy Week. Take time to think about it.

I don’t mean to say that I have
already achieved these things
or that I have already reached perfection.
But I press on to possess that perfection
for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
No, dear brothers and sisters,
I have not achieved it,
but I focus on this one thing:
Forgetting the past and looking forward
to what lies ahead, I press on
to reach the end of the race
and receive the heavenly prize
for which God, through Christ Jesus,
is calling us.(Philippians 3:12-14)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Creative Autobiography - Question #1

I'm reading a great book these days (thank you, Greta Bruneel!) titled The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp.

Early in the book she provides a questionnaire for readers to better understand their "creative DNA." In other words, what makes them tick creatively... what "story" you're trying to tell, why you do the things you do, where you are strong and where you are weak.

Ms. Tharp emphatically calls the reader to honesty, and no giving in to the urge to impress others. In her book, this exercise, a "Creative Autobiography," is for yourself only.

But I loved this first question, and it sparked great memories in me. So occasionally, I may share my Creative Autobiography answers with you.

Question #1: What is the first creative moment you remember?

I remember the wonder of reading and learning. I remember the awe I felt for my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Woolwine. She would read a story to us at the end of every day. And the first story that I remember holding me on the absolute edge of my seat was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Looking it up in Wikipedia, I see that it came out in the US in 1964. I was in 2nd grade (7 years old) in 1968, so that wasn’t too far away. And my own copy of this book looked just like the cover here.

Glorious memory. I remember looking forward to the end of the day and getting to listen to her tell us about the golden ticket, Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Mike Teevee and Violet Beauregarde. I remember not caring about time or where I was or whether I had friends. I was completely alone with the story. It was a safe and enchanting place. It was escape.

I distinctly remember trying to picture the Chocolate River and August Gloop falling in and clogging the pipes; Veruca Salt getting thrown down the chute for wanting nuts, and Violet Beauregarde getting big and blue. I remember Charlie’s difficult life and the wonder he felt at getting a golden ticket. I related well to Charlie because he was an overlooked child, and I was too. I was quiet, we moved a lot, I didn’t have many friends, we didn’t live in a warm and familiar home. I remember the world of words and books and imagination opening up to me for the first time through this book. This was the year I really learned how to read and I would just BURY my nose in books.

For me, creativity = imagination. So my first creative, AKA imaginative, moment that I remember was listening to Mrs. Woolwine in 2nd grade reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to our class. And I never wanted it to end.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday Recipe, April 2, 2009

Before I share this week's recipe, I must give a HUGE plug for you to join your local CSA farm. "CSA?" you may ask?

"Chickens Savoring Aphids?" "Corn Saturated Alcohol?" "Casual Salty Accents?"

Nay nay... "Community Supported Agriculture" farms. In late 2007, I had been shopping at the Farmers' Markets for awhile, and really enjoying it... Then I read two books that persuaded me to go further: Plenty: One Man, One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle both argue ably for eating and participating locally in the food you eat.

Two of their many reasons stuck most with me:
1. When you eat weekly from a CSA, you interact with the people who grow & harvest your food. It's very communal, and takes us back to a way of life that we have set aside. I've really enjoyed slowly getting to know the staff at Fairview, and have loved asking questions and learning about the various produce. (Yes, I am aware that you are interacting with the farmers sometimes when you go to Farmers' Markets... but by buying at the CSA you are going to the actual place where your food is grown. Muy cool.)

2. You are 'forced' to eat what you receive - not always food that you would initially choose. C'mon, admit it, you only buy stuff you LIKE at Farmers' Market! But this seasonal eating has developed so many things in me. I've been introduced to a bunch of foods I'd never eaten: fennel, kohlrabi, and all manner of greens (my new best friends): kale, mustard greens, collard... And as I've mentioned here before, I've learned better how to WAIT and anticipate the various seasons and what foods they bring. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this result has had great spiritual implications as well for me.

So, with little effort, I discovered an easy option nearby... I've mentioned it before: Fairview Gardens. My housemate and I joined in January 08. While many of my friends probably regret asking me about it (because I am nearly evangelistic in my enthusiasm), I continue to encourage others to try out just one season at a local CSA to see how it goes. I believe you will be hooked!

So you've heard it here: I think belonging to a CSA is better than shopping at Farmers' Market.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

But I digress: in the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have not gotten to try out this recipe yet. But I am four for four with the recipes I have tried so far from the February 09 issue of Vegetarian Times, so I'm boldly stepping out and guessing this will be great. I'm making it tomorrow night.

serve 6 | 30 minutes or fewer | vegan

The pesto for this dish is made without parmesan, which means you can indulge by sprinkling it with a little bit of it if you like.

3/4 c fresh parsley leaves
1/4 c walnuts
5 cloves garlic, divided
1 tb fresh thyme leaves, plus 2 large sprigs, divided
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus 2 large springs, divided
4 tb olive oil, divided
8 oz black kale (1 bunch), stemmed and coarsely chopped
12 oz dried tagliatelle or fettucine
1 1/4 lb oyster or other large mushrooms, halved
1 lg onion, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 c grated Parmesan cheese

1. Blend parsley, walnuts, 3 garlic cloves, thyme leaves and chopped rosemary in food processor till finely chopped. Add 3 tb oil, blend till smooth. Set aside.

2. Cook kale in large pot of boiling water 5 minutes or till tender. Remove kale with large sieve and drain. Add pasta, remaining garlic cloves, thyme, and rosemary sprigs to boiling water, and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta.

3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tb oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion, sauté 12 minutes, or till tender and golden. Add pesto, and sauté 2 minutes, or till sauce begins to stick to bottom of pan and turns golden brown. Add vegetable broth, simmer 2 minutes, or till liquid is reduced by half, scraping sauce from bottom of pan.

4. Add kale and pasta to mushroom mixture, toss to coat. Stir in reserved pasta cooking water to moisten, if desired.

Per 2-cup serving: 391 calories; 13 g protein; 13 g total fat (2 g sat fat); 59 g carb; 0 mg chol; 62 mg sod; 6 g fiber; 6 g sugars

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Odds 'n Ends

There is no particular rhyme or reason to today's entry... just a few bits and pieces that are scuttling around my life.

1. If you read my entry on March 30 about Arvo Part, I found a review of his music in the New Yorker archives from 2002 that expands on the beauty of his music. I received my CD in the mail yesterday - I bought his latest album titled In Principio ("In the Beginning"), that has 5 works set in the Book of John. Lovely.

2. For those of you who told me where Estonia actually is... thank you.

3. I got an official Westmont College email address - ksoifer@westmont.edu - AND a Westmont ID card in preparation for my Mayterm class, which starts on May 11. So far, I have 10 students signed up. Quite stoked about that. Some of you who have known me for a long time are allowed to have a little giggle that I'm working at Westmont. I'm excited!

4. I've just been asked to provide the speaking/training for a day-long retreat for the Kids Club ministries in Santa Barbara, scheduled for May 2. This is going to be fantastic - the leaders from the Eastside, the Westside and Goleta are all coming together. A dream come true! I'm so impressed with what these ministries are doing, week in and week out.

5. Here's a quote to ponder that I read this week:

I cannot talk about God or sin or grace... without at the same time talking about those parts of my own experience where these ideas became compelling and real.
Frederick Buechner

I would say that this is, in part, the motivation behind this blog. I write about what I know...

I have staked my life on the transforming power of God's grace, plain and simple. But I find I cannot speak too convincingly of it apart from the experience I have with grace in my own life and in the lives of those I see & know. The line between "orthodoxy" and "orthopraxy" is blurred for me. As I continuously learn of grace in God's word, I see it more... as I experience God's grace personally - gently and subtly at times - I then see it in every part of God's word.

I'm so grateful for how your lives are teaching me too. Praise Him.