Monday, September 27, 2010

Dinner Tonight: First Day of Fall Soup

Today is the first fall day that feels like fall.  Hanging out at the house on my day off today, I needed to add a sweatshirt to my usual jeans and t-shirt.  The fall-ish weather inspired me to simmer up a big ole pot of soup.  I had already gotten the stuff to try Christy's Dal recipe at Home Celebrations.  She makes hers super easy by throwing everything in the Crock Pot.  I thought I would make mine just like she wrote it, but then I:
  • forgot the cabbage at the grocery store, 
  • waited too late to start it in the Crock Pot, 
  • got bored dealing with that many veggies 
  • pulled back just a little on the amount of curry powder, 
  • and decided to serve mine over rice, gumbo style, topped with a little yogurt.
Other than that, it's a lot like hers!  (Thanks, Christy!)

This was perfect for a cool, rainy day and it made the house smell really good!

Red Lentil Soup over Rice

This was my grandmother's soup pot.
Heat 2 T. olive oil in large soup pot.

1 onion, chopped (I used a yellow onion)
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise & thinly sliced
1 rib celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced (I used a garlic press)
1 zucchini, cubed (about 1/2" cubes)

Cook until tender.

1 T. freshly grated ginger
1 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 t. curry powder (Spice Island)
2 t. McCormick Hot Madras Curry Powder

Stir it around and add:
1 lb. bag red lentils (look more orange to me)
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
2 vegetable bullion cubes
4 cups of water (I added more later)

Bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour or so.  Lentils cook pretty fast.  Add more water if you want a soupier soup.  Add salt to taste.  And, of course, remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves before serving.

I served this over cooked rice and topped with a dollop of plain yogurt.  Feel free to improvise.  I did!
I am participating in Hearth and Soul Hop -- Volume 16.  There are tons more great recipes and ideas over there!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Practical Magic Blog Party!

Practical Magic Blog Party
Today is the much-anticipated Practical Magic Blog Party!

I blogged on Chocolate For Breakfast! yesterday.

Now, on to the party!

My first stop was the Cellar Door and Some Incanted Evening (get it?).  Wander through the love incantation scenes in the movie and then try one of your own.  Beautiful!

CajunStampingQueen crafted a book of spells and placed on a candle-lit mantle.  Bewitching!

Make your own magic wand at Lenorita's place.  Hers is a masterpiece!

Kat the Hat Lady made ... guess what! ...A HAT in honor of Aunt Fran's floppy straw hat in the movie.  The hat is adorable, but also check out the gallery of "Fran look" clothes further down the blog.  I would wear them!

A Pink Dreamer told us a very sweet ghost story, with pictures!

Party-going gives way to church legal seminar!  Maybe more later!

Pull up a chair out Cocina Diary and order from Angie's complete menu celebrating memorable movie moments.  I am definitely going back for seconds on those recipes!

Friday, September 24, 2010

GF Magic: Chocolate for Breakfast!

Practical Magic Blog Party
Tomorrow is the Practical Magic Blog Party.  I'm posting today because I have to be present at an all-day seminar tomorrow called Legal Issues That Can Really Bite Churches if They Aren't Careful ... or something like that.

I was inspired by the movie version of Practical Magic,  and especially by this wacky commandment delivered by Frances:  

"In this house we have chocolate cake for breakfast and never bother with silly things like bedtimes, or brushing our teeth."

What could be more magical than letting go of some of the rules that were passed on to us as non-negotiable?  I'm not ready to let go of bedtimes or teeth-brushing, so let's keep those bedtimes flexible and let's relish toothbrushing as part of a bedtime routine that is healthy and relaxing!
PM Yoga anyone?

For chocolate lovers who learned well the lesson that the breakfast meal was off-limits to their favorite comfort food, I present
"Chocolate for Breakfast"

Chocolate for Breakfast
Huge thanks to Karina over at Gluten Free Goddess blog for developing and sharing her recipe for GF Quinoa Breakfast Brownies.  Doesn't it look yummy?  Karina is an awesome GF chef and her love for food finds expression in the most delicious recipes.  

I felt positively witchy mixing up all the ingredients.  I already had most of them in my kitchen, including the chocolate chips I had for melting onto my birthday cake and my morning-oatmeal-enhancing golden raisins.  I used a Pampered Chef medium bar pan, lined with parchment paper.  As Karina advised, I will wrap the squares individually in foil and freeze them in a freezer bag.

Voila!  Instant chocolate comfort food that is ready to go -- morning, noon or night -- especially when I'm in a witchy mood!

For something to sip along with these squares of chocolate joy, I put the "lime in the coconut" along with some frozen bananas to make this smoothie:

"Lime in the Coconut" Magic Smoothie
coconut milk 
frozen banana
lime juice & finely grated lime zest
ice cubes
Amazing Grass Organic Wheat Grass Powder (optional; adds color and nutrition)

These are the actual ingredients in the smoothie pictured.  I can't give you exact amounts because I just threw stuff in the blender until it looked right.  You can "put the lime in the coconut" in your favorite smoothie recipe or conjure up something delicious using this guide.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Serendipity Celebrity Moment: Moosewood Restaurant

It did indeed feel like meeting a celebrity I had known from afar but never dreamed I would meet.  

At about the mid-point of a day trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York, one of my favorite people and I were wandering through Ithaca at about lunch time.  We happened upon the Moosewood Restaurant and that's when I gave up any pretense of being able to offer the usual "wherever you want to eat is fine."  For me, there was no question.  It had to be Moosewood.

Hot ginger lemon tea
As we walked toward the restaurant, I recognized the signature tree and moose logo on the restaurant's green awning covered entrance.  I took in the simple elegance of the open multi-story atrium-like dining area, bar and -- yes -- a wall that held the Moosewood souvenirs for sale.  

Wide-eyed from the moment I spied the place, I tried not to act like the infatuated fan that was squealing inside me.  I managed to not say, "I love your cookbooks!" and "I've tried so many of your recipes!" Acting cool and adult was an effort!  I did take out my camera and take pictures of the ginger lemon tea that started my meal and the raspberry mousse that finished it off.  In between, I enjoyed the saffron rice stuffed peppers.  Everything was delicious!  [That link is to a recipe that looks similar to what I had.]

Raspberry mousse:
the gluten free choice
It's hard for me to describe the sheer awe-filled delight of my serendipitous Moosewood Restaurant experience.  It would be like having Stephen Colbert strike up a conversation with me in the audience of his show.  Or it would be like being in a week-long Bible study with feminist theologian Rita Nakashima Brock and then sharing a leisurely dinner with her and some friends, full of laughter.

Of these three, I've now been fortunate to enjoy two of them to the max.  I know I will enjoy the Colbert experience just as much!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Color Me Happy!

ColorsToday's day-dreams are brought to you by the color ... green? ... red? ... mauve?  I don't know what color. And that's my dilemma.

I have been dreaming of paint. My day-dreaming was inspired by an 87-year old woman I visited recently whose home is sweet, small and impeccably painted in white -- yes, white! -- and she does the painting herself. Regularly. Still. At age 87.

I confess that, before home Communion was served, I interrogated her at length about painting. I was hoping that she could infuse me with some of her expertise in painting and some of her quiet confidence about style. I'm sure she would laugh if she heard me say that she has style, but, in my eyes, she does. All of her walls and woodwork are painted white and yet still her house is cozy and not at all stark. She used color in beautiful ways.  She used, tastefully, a color I love:  red.  I was inspired.

So color me HAPPY that I found a fellow blogger who also delights in finding her decorating colors. She recently posted something really fun over at This, That, and The Other which she got from Lisa Clarke's blog, Polka Dot Cottage. What total serendipity! For I am pretty sure that "Cottage" would be somewhere close to a label for what might loosely be called my "personal home decorating style." "Shabby Chic" is casual and tattered enough but a little too soft and too pastel. I'm only a little bit "Country" and, beyond that, I'm not sure what the categories of decorating style even are.   But I digress ... !

About finding those colors: Check out both blogs for a cool tool called The Color Palette Generator. You can use your own photo from a vacation spot you loved or choose a photo that gives you a good feeling -- say, happy and content, or energized, or inspired.  This tool lets you see the individual colors that could make little parts of your world feel the same way.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Gluten Free Awareness Day

Gluten-free Cherry Browine Bites 3
Gluten-free cherry brownie bites
Today is Celiac Disease Awareness Day.  I don't know for sure if I have celiac disease.  The tests that were done were inconclusive and further testing has not been done.  What I do know -- absolutely -- is that certain conditions have cleared up and I feel much better eating gluten free (GF).

What I like about eating GF:  Fewer food choices.  It's easier to read a menu and navigate through a grocery store or pick something from a cookbook.  It's a relief, actually.  I am a fan of limitations.

What I don't like about eating GF:  Social occasions, parties and church dinners.  The challenging thing is being perceived as "difficult" &/or "special needs" even though I can always find food to eat. 

What not to ask someone with a health-related dietary restriction:  "What happens if you eat it?"  In my particular case, the answer is not so much gross as it is technical.  Either way, it's not the best dinner conversation to have.

My favorite GF meal:  Enchiladas, baby!  Divine providence spared my favorite soul food because it's naturally GF, when GF sauce is used.  I want to experiment with making my own sauce from scratch with dried red chiles.  For dessert:  Gluten-free Cherry Brownie Bites (photo above) from Carol at Simply Gluten Free.

Some of my favorite finds:
  • Betty Crocker GF cakes and brownies ~~~ My chocolate birthday cake was delicious, but I had trouble finding wheat-free icing.  I kid you not.  Semi-sweet chocolate chips melt well onto a warm cake, I discovered.  I am looking forward to trying gluten-free Bisquick, too, but I haven't seen it yet.
  • Larabars ~~~ Nuts, fruit, and spices made into a delicious to-go bar with two to nine all-natural ingredients.  My favorites are the coconut cream pie and the cinnamon roll, but I have liked all of the flavors I've tried. 
I'm glad to know:  In the blogosphere, there are many, many kindred spirits ready to share their world of living with a galaxy of life circumstances, even if that circumstance seems, at first, like a limitation.  

And that reminds me of Becky's blog about the Blob, which is not GF but more FG (fun and games).   Enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Sabbath Sabbath

I am on vacation!  Today is a very different kind of Sunday for me. On summer Sundays, by 8:15 a.m. or so, I am at church puttering around with last-minute details of the 9:00 a.m. worship service and greeting the early arrivers.

Floral/Butterfly Frame
Blank frame.  Insert life.
Summer worship starts earlier in the morning, but it is no less of a worship service.  When we say that things are "more relaxed" in the summer, we are not talking about any relaxation of my role in the worship service.  I am fully involved in a full-fledged sermon, a fully-engaged children's conversation, a fully-prayed pastoral prayer, and the usual multi-page worship bulletin.  Other elements of worship take the summer off -- Senior Choir, I'm talking to you -- and the Sunday School program also takes a break.  Many of the regular pews of the regular people are empty.  Yes, I noticed.

Today, I was the one who slept in.  This early riser, who calls getting up at 6:30 a.m. "sleeping in," slept later than that, much later.  The day has already included coffee and reading a novel on the patio and a leisurely stroll with a young loved one through a local mall in the 90+ degree heat leading to my first ever treat from Jamba Juice, a "Pomegranate Pick-Me-Up" to be exact.

Today looks forward to more pleasure reading, more coffee and more goofing off.  I will check in with a couple of other loved ones, including a Skype session with my grandson.  All of this is prelude to the "Wild Rumpus" that my nieces have earned by getting their homework all done.  They get to set the agenda, and they have warned me that our time together will likely involve an enchilada dinner, followed by junk food, movies and a tournament of Wii games that I will surely lose as I laugh myself silly.

Holy Sabbath!  Today, I am in Texas, enjoying big skies, the precious company of my loved ones, breathing deeply, and -- in the nick of time, again -- remembering Whose I am.  And it is good, very good.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Ten Questions on a Tuesday

Here are some questions I have seen around the blogosphere.  A very wonderful woman inspired me to answer them today:

1.  What simple pleasure would you miss most if it was no longer a part of your life?
       goofing off

Cherry Tart Goblin Nub
I just liked it!
2.  What was one of your prized possessions as a child or teenager?
       As a teenager, I had a cat named Charley.

3.  Name a book you've read (or a movie you've watched) multiple times.
       Several, but the one that might surprise people is Legally Blonde (the movie)

4.  What is your current career/vocation?  
       Pastor of a UCC church  
If you could try another one, what would it be?
A residence hall director or children's home house parent

5.  If you could take a six-month sabbatical, where would you go and what would you want to do/learn/study?
       A trip around the world by as many slow means as possible to learn, study, do, goof off!  "Goof off" in this case would be taking pictures and eating and talking to people!  In a perfect world I would take a few of my wonderful relatives and/or friends who could buy into that agenda.

6.  In your opinion, what is the quintessential comfort food?
       Mexican food -- specifically, family enchilada night!

7.  What was a formative moment or turning point in your life?
       The seminary years -- the whole process of it all.  Life was never the same after that.

8.  Do you have any regrets that are particularly difficult to shake?

9.  If you could be really talented at a skill of your choice, what would it be?
       Talk show host or guest

10.  If you had to choose one word to describe what you hope your life is like in 10 years, what would it be?

Wanna play?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Three year old me
For those who wished me a great day, your wish came true:
  • A beautiful card and a great gift to wake up to
  • Celebrating worship and communion with a congregation who sang "Happy Birthday" to me and enjoying some very good-natured kids of the church
  • Hanging out with my easy-to-hang-out-with son
  • An amazingly good Mexican food restaurant in our neck of the woods -- great find!
  • A bookstore browsing and two new quilting magazines
  • Enjoying cooler weather and noticing leaves tinged with fall color
  • Happy birthday calls from sweet daughters and hearing from dear family and wonderful friends -- far and near -- all very special people
  • Gluten-free chocolate cake (thank you, Betty Crocker!) with dark chocolate icing and vanilla ice cream -- for supper!  That, plus a multi-vitamin and some de-caf coffee sounds plenty good enough.  
  • And I am pretty sure there will be a Netflix movie to end a perfect day!
Life is good!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Back to School Book Week: The "Wild Card" Book

Old BibleEren at The Vintage Chica started us on this fun week of celebrating our favorite books by genre.  Due to some Hurricane Earl challenges, "Freedom Friday" is on Saturday.  Today Eren invites us to name "any book you think is worth mentioning."  I almost don't want to do this because it's so expected for a pastor to do, but I am going to go with the glaringly obvious:  what we Christians call The Holy Bible.

~~~ BUT WAIT! ~~~
I'm not going to go all holier-than-thou or pastor-nerdy on you!  The Holy Bible has been such a perpetual best-seller for a reason, and perhaps the reason is more compelling than the comfort the Bible gives us by looking so good on our bookshelves.  I want to share with you some books that have shown me the same old Bible in a whole new way!

Making Friends with the Bible (Elouise Renich Fraser, Louis A. Kilgore) was co-authored by my seminary theology professor.  Her approach to theology and to the Bible are similar:  when we forget (or refuse) to bring our own selves authentically and openly to Bible study or theology, we keep at arm's length the God-power at work in the biblical story, the Christian tradition and our own stories.

I have used this book in several Bible studies as an intro unit.  Too often, people are embarrassed by their lack of "Bible knowledge" so they want the pastor to "do a Bible study for us."  This book invites each of us to stop being afraid of the Bible, or intimidated by it, and stop using the Bible for our own purposes.  Instead, this book invites us to go beyond knowing about the Bible and let ourselves make friends with the Bible.  Her analysis of friendship is a jewel in itself and was inspired, at least in part, by writing the book as a team.

I will write another long post sometime about how my life radically changed in a Systematic Theology class.  For now, I would say that this book is worth the couple of dollars it would cost to buy a copy used from Amazon. [Edit:  I said that because it's out of print, not because it's only worth buying on the cheap!]

Here are some other books that have opened up the Bible to me:

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Back to School Book Week: Non-Fiction

Thanks to Eren at Vintage Chica for the chance to celebrate books during this back-to-school week!
Book Worm

Today is all about non-fiction books, the genre that fills my world.  I'm so happy that two non-fiction sub-genres -- craft books and cookbooks -- got their own special days this week.  Even with those out of the contest, the choices are many, from the shelves full of non-fiction books in my pastor's study to the books that are tucked away in bookshelves in just about every room of my house.

I used to approach fiction books as fun and non-fiction books as work.  I thought that since non-fiction books were factual instead of fantasy, their highest purpose was to add facts to my store of knowledge, usually by my least favorite exercise in the whole wide world -- memorizing!  Point conceded, however, that I have learned a lot from the books I have read.  You definitely want me on your Trivial Pursuit team!

My favorite non-fiction books, however, have had the magical effect of transforming my life and/or my world view.  In no special order, I share today five such life-changing books:

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Back to School Book Week: Fiction

It's "Fiction Day" of Back to School Book Week and I wonder what to pick as my favorite fiction book.  For sheer escape fiction, I really like the sassy, action-packed J.D. Robb mysteries and recently have discovered the South-based mysteries of Greg Iles.  Dean Koontz writes horror in the most compelling way, and it turns out that he's United Church of Christ, at least according the UCC Tribute song by "Lost and Found" which is the only Christian band I've ever loved.  But I wander ...
The Alchemist
If I had to choose one book to highlight as a favorite, it would be Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.  It is a fable about a man who says he is looking for treasure but there is so much more to be searched for and found.  I have liked a good fable since back in the day when Aesop's fables were read to me from the Childcraft books (links provided to enlighten the post-baby boom, not-yet AARP crowd).  This book is about journey and meaning and it's also an easy, good read.

I have a few other favorite adult fables ("allegorical novels") on my bookshelf:

 Thanks to Eren at Vintage Chica for creating this fun challenge!