Tuesday
Nov252014

Cumin Roasted Delicata Squash 

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Expectations are *%$#ers. 

Though I love the holidays, it's a constant discipline to accept what is instead of compare things to how they could be. And I even have a loving marriage, astoundingly fantastic children, and a roof over my head. November and December can wreak havoc on any of us who are grieving, remembering, tired, or longing. Yancey talks about how their call volume at the fire station goes way up during December. Lots of panic attacks and worse. 

For some, the panic is about feeling stuck and choiceless. For others (me and lots in my middle class set), it's about having too much choice. Maybe you planned the basics for Thanksgiving, but then your cooking magazine came in the mail and they are insisting that you break tradition. You've started making a new shopping list and having your own mini panic attack. 

Or you had planned to stay home the day after Thanksgiving, do a few chores, maybe play some games with your kids, snuggle with your cats, or take your dog for a walk. Or maybe you have to work. But now you see that your Facebook friend with the perfect life is planning the ultimate Christmas kickoff day in downtown Seattle and for some reason, you're now feeling bad about yourself.

Joanna Macy says all of us have "tics,"  almost neurological default places we go under stress or uncertainty. She says her tic is anxiety, and she's learned that she will always deal with it in some form. Her antidote is to acknowledge it. That's it. To welcome it. There's no way we can let it go until we've acknowledged it's there! 

The poetry is coming fast and furious lately. I'll leave you with the advice I give myself.

Plus a recipe that was DELICIOUS. And this:

I'll be blogging every day for Advent like I did last year. November 30-December 25. Little moments, recipes, photos, signposts reminding us of the incredible "Yes!" of this season. I hope you join me.

Headwaters

Some days, all that's left
is to take myself aside,
find a quiet place,
and say,

"Dear, you are in pain.
You like to control things,
and you know how silly that is.
Lie down, light a candle,
laugh at yourself,
quit trying to fix, arrange, plan, sort."

Then, like headwaters
in the middle of luscious nowhere,
the ancient power will appear--
cold, clear, unstoppable,
unexplainable. 

Cumin Roasted Delicata Squash and Carrots with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
One of the things that makes the holidays SACRED for me (instead of commercial, rushed, or guilt-ridden) is my connection to church, to my faith community. When I enter that space with those people, something in me slows down and remembers where I came from.  We had a Thanksgiving potluck after church on Sunday. I didn't remember until I woke up, so I scrounged up and found some forgotten squash in my pantry bin. Yay for the pantry! I wanted to eat this whole platter. Delicata is so delicious and tender, and my favorite thing is they don't need to be peeled. 

2 good-sized or 3 small delicata squash, washed
2 bunches small rainbow carrots or 1 bunch big carrots, cut into sticks
olive oil
coarse salt
2 tsp. cumin
handful chopped parsley
handful pumpkin seeds 

For dressing:
coarse salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
3 Tb. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 Tb. pomegranate molasses 

Preheat oven to 425.

Cut each delicata in half, then scoop out the seeds and pulp. Slice squash into 1/2" rings. Toss squash with carrots, olive oil (quite a bit), salt, pepper, and cumin. Spread out on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Don't squish it all onto one or it will steam and not roast. Switch the sheets halfway through baking time to make sure they cook evenly. Roast for about 20 minutes until browned and soft (but not mushy).

For dressing, whisk, pepper, cumin, and vinegar until salt dissolves. Then add olive oil and pomegranate molasses, whisking until emulsified, adding more of anything to taste/consistency.

Arrange roasted vegetables on a platter (Much prettier than a bowl. My favorite trick.) and gently toss with dressings. Scatter parsley and pumpkin seeds over the top. Serve room temperature.

Wednesday
Nov122014

Little Miracles (and Pumpkin Scones)

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At the end of this post is yet ANOTHER recipe for pumpkin scones. I don't think the world needs another one, but Saturday morning begged for them--I had a tub of roasted squash (a mix of acorn, butternut, and pumpkin) in the fridge that needed to be used up. So really, squash scones. I brought some over to our neighbors Jim and Marjia who were working in their yard. My favorite thing about Jim is that he doesn't act disinterested. Not one little bit. He grabbed a scone with his gardening hands and ate it right there in the yard. Nothing could make me happier. And Marjia scolded him for taking the biggest one.

We've had a bout of sickness around here this week--Loretta's the worst, but I'm sick, too, Wyatt's fighting something, and we've been blasting through the tissue, iburprofen, cough syrup, and honey lemon tea. But there have been so many moments of connection in the midst of it--more proof that what I really want and need is mutual dependence--there's no such thing as relationship without it. 

A few weeks ago, I admitted to some friends and acquaintances that I was feeling lonely. I didn't enjoy that admission. In the age of Facebook and Instagram, the whole point is to at least appear completely booked and preoccupied . I did this, I did that, so-and-so and I really connected over some amazing meal or moment. To come out and say you're lonely? Not really in vogue. 

But here's what happens when you do: poeple respond! And the discipline is just to take it in, to say "thank you," to let yourself soak up the love that you didn't know you needed so badly. As Rumi says, the need brings in what's needed.

Some of the little miracles lately:

  • Walking on the trail with Margie, my friend from church, who's 20 years older than me and has lived beyond this stage of life, and her putting her arm around me and not saying anything. Holy moment.
  • Having bouts of insomnia and knowing, in the middle of the night, with the Northwest winds raging, that God is alive and doing her thing.
  • Podcasts! So much amazing storytelling that lifts me beyond myself. This American Life, OnBeing, Serial, Radio Diaries. The world is full of people who have survived incredible things.
  • Tracy bringing over chicken noodle soup and Loretta eating 4 bowls of it when nothing has sounded good to her all week.
  • Breeze bringing over cough syrup, elderberry syrup, banana bread, flowers. Some people are born with an extra dose of Thoughtfulness, and she is one of them.
  • Elizabeth doing double duty on carpooling so I can stay home and nurse Loretta.
  • My meditation corner. It's really filling up with talismans now. Finger labyrinth, candles, Mary Oliver's and Christian Wiman's new poems, my favorite box of matches. God is everywhere, of course, but I posiiton myself to catch those beams of love in that 5 square feet.
  • Every healthcare worker who has put him or herself in danger to help Ebola victims. They put me to shame, inspire me, and expose the love that pulses behind everything.

What are your little miracles lately? As always, being here with you takes the edge off the loneliness. We are all on this road together.

Pumpkin Scones

Yep, I googled it. Knowing which recipes are good and which aren't so good is a skill, and I wish I could explain it better. It's saved me a lot of heartache. Where scones or lots of baked goods are concerned, be wary if there's not enough fat in the recipe. Or if lots of waiting and steps are involved. Scones shouldn't be that way. And I LIKED that there was corn syrup in this glaze, which meant that it would harden up and be shiny just like I wanted it to be. 2 Tablespoons of corn syrup isn't going to hurt you any more than sugar will--it acts the same way in your body. And if you buy a bottle, you can make caramel corn at Christmas! The only change I made to this recipe was using fresh roasted squash instead of canned pumpkin, and I used more like 3/4 c. because I wanted more moisture and pumpkin flavor. And I used toasted pecans instead of walnuts. You could leave the nuts out alltogether if you want.

recipe

Tuesday
Oct212014

Tiramisu

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It's about time for a good old recipe, don't you think? Enough of my pontificating and opining! Emily says this is really a spirituality blog that calls itself a food blog. Sigh. Don't give me an opening, or I'll squeeze through it. 

We're celebrating Yancey's birthday all week, starting with Monday Night Dinner last night. When 10 or 12 of us gather a few Mondays a month at our house, one of my rules is I don't make dessert. But birthdays are another matter, of course, and Yancey reached back in the archives for this request. Remember when tiramisu was on every menu? Setting it down in the middle of the table last night, I remembered why.

And though it looks impressive with its beautiful layers, it could not be easier. I often bring it to Christmas gatherings as it's so festive and everyone thinks I toiled over it.

P.S. Yancey's birthday marks 25 years of the two of us knowing one another. On his 16th birthday, we sat next to one another on a high school bus. He hadn't been in in my sights at all (Jock? Ew!!), but he was after that. It took awhile for the feeling to be mutual, but that's what makes good stories. We have been so blessed with the goodness and love of each other.

Tiramisu
I got this recipe at least 15 years ago from a little stack of them at Pacific Food Importers in Seattle. I really, really miss that place. They sold ladyfingers, marscapone, and every other Mediterranean foodstuff you can think of. Thankfully, Trader Joe's sells marscapone, and they even have ladyfingers right now. A good grocery store should have the same. This probably isn't the best dessert for pregnant diners since it contains the trifecta of no-no's--raw eggs, coffee, and alcohol! But I've never worried about serving it to others and never had any problems.

4 eggs
8 Tb. sugar
4 Tb. rum, brandy, or marsala
1 lb. marscapone
1 big package ladyfingers (or 3 TJ's packages--60-75 cookies)
strongly brewed coffee or espresso (about 1 c.)
cocoa powder or chocolate shavings made with a vegetable peeler 

Get out a 9x13 glass dish.

Divide eggs, putting yolks in a medium bowl and whites in the bowl of a mixer.

Beat whites until peaked.

To the yolks, add sugar, rum, and marscapone and whisk, beat, or stir until smooth. Gently spoon in egg whites, folding until incorporated.

Quickly dip ladyfingers in coffee and place a layer in your glass dish, trying to make sure the whole bottom is covered. Pour on 1/3 of the marscapone mixture and smooth with a spatula. Repeat two more times, ending with a layer of marscapone. Refrigerate at least an hour. 

Before serving, sift cocoa powder or sprinkle chocolate shavings over the top. Cut into squares or just scoop out with a spoon.

Saturday
Oct182014

Roasted Squash, Mark Driscoll, and other Collapsing Things

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My friend Tracy just left for a trip to China. I was trying to reassure her that the to-do list would get done and that her son would be just fine without her. As we parted, she called out, "The world is a scary place!" Tracy is one of the least fearful people I know, but she's right. The world is a scary place, and my little life in Bellingham doesn't know the half of it--ebola, extremists, refugee camps, dictators, drought. But you don't even have to go that far to run into grief, loss, depression, loneliness, poverty, longing and disappointment of every kind. If I pay attention, it's enough to get me asking every morning, "How then shall we live?"

Some of you know that I grew up in a big, Evangelical church, so the news about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church has me really thinking about leadership, about religion, and how the two of those things can get so #$%ed up when they intertwine--how many people get hurt when what's supposed to be a message of love becomes one of shame, subservience, and sin. 

It's tempting to villainze people like Mark Driscoll, but a client reminded me this week that what we permit, we promote. It's our own longing for certainty and belonging that allows leaders like Driscoll! It's our own drive to codify, categorize, and enshrine that lets us idolize institutions or people that will fail us. In the end, we've got to have something more bedrock than church, than work, even than family and our relationships with one another. It's that darn Saint Catherine of Genoa again, running through the streets and proclaiming, "My deepest me is God!" If we dig down and find love of power, success, or fame, workaholism or violence, we haven't descended far enough. Because if we go to that deepest place, there is nothing to fear.

I'm now one of those food bloggers that's tempted to apologize for not writing about food, but here's another poem instead. And if you can stay hooked for a minute, there's a little bit about roasting squash down there, too.

On the Resignation of a Public Figure

I believe what they say,
what every news outlet almost gleefully reports--
he lied, cheated, abused his power, 
betrayed thousands of people.

I picture him, at home with his family,
avoiding the liquor cabinet (or not),
sneaking out to his car,
driving for hours to get away from himself.

I imagine running into him
at the grocery store, both of us
doing late night milk-runs.
If I got in his way, maybe he'd look up.

Then I could say,
"There is enough. You are enough.
If there is mercy for me, there is
mercy for you.
We're all dipping into the same bucket,
and it never runs out." 

P.S. I had collected quite an assortment of squash from my CSA deliveries--delicata, acorn, butternut. I know from experience that a huge, hard squash sitting there probably won't get thrown last-minute into dinner. So I halved everything, rubbed the cut sides with olive oil, and spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked until everything was falling apart--about an hour. After they cooled, I scooped the flesh into a tupperware and stuck it in the fridge. Tomorrow, I'll use it to make squash soup with coconut milk and red curry. But you can just keep it in there, smashing it into quesadillas, tossing it with hot pasta, cream, and parmesan, throwing some in your morning smoothie, dropping dollops onto pizza. Autumn at its best!

Saturday
Sep272014

Dispatch from Family Life

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I have a friend who's finding her way out of cancer and months of chemotherapy. I went to see her and her husband for a blessed afternoon, celebrating with them their survival. They said they were sick of talking about cancer, and I said I had plenty of banal anectdotes from family life to enterain them. Thank you, God, that I do--that I'm not sick or depresssed, that our family isn't torn asunder, that war or contagious disease isn't part of our daily lives. As Jane Kenyon says, someday it could be otherwise. For now, here's some of the daily-ness I'm basking in:

Many apple crisps. We bought home a big box of apples from Wenatchee around Labor Day and since we had room for them in the garage fridge, they last FOREVER. I've made apples crisps for 3 different gatherings. My absolute favorite topping recipe these days, as crunchy as it should be: MIx 1 c. flour, 1/4 c. oats, 1/4 c. sliced almonds, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. granualated sugar, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Add 1 cube (1/2 cup) melted butter to the mixture, stir, and drop irregular chunks over your apple/sugar/bit of flour mixture. 

"Soggy Chip!" I had a bit of uncharacteristic road rage yesterday because this guy really was an asshole. I said so with Loretta in the car. She said, "Mom! You said a bad word. You should call him a soggy chip instead." Where did that come from?! And I love it. That *&%#ing soggy chip.

Emily's visit. Emily had a spontaneous weekend up here, and she describes our friendship as "not flashy." She will paint Loretta's toenails while I clean out my fridge, and we are just as happy as can be, in each other's orbit. Love you, sister.

Elementary schoolers sitting in rows. I've had the chance to drop into a couple assemblies at Loretta's school lately. If 400 children sitting in rows on the gym floor doesn't give you a little twinge, what will?!

Yancey in Carhartts. He hates it when I post stuff like this, and since he doesn't read this, I"ll say "Damn!" He's hot. Especially when he's building a dining table for me, listening to Americana, and doing calculations with his carpenter's pencil.

And the most heart-tugging, Wyatt starting middle school. Lots of firsts there, and lots of moments that undo me. Again, a poem says it best.

Prayer for the first day of Middle School

Make his heart soft,
his body present and strong,
his mind open.

Run like a clear blue aquifer
under all his fears and thirsts.

Shine like a full moon,
lighting up his blackest nights.

But most of all, oh Love--
let him remember his locker combination.

Amen.