New Cooking Plan

Starting some new cooking habits. I like to cook and I love to bake! Ovens are like magic to me. You put something in it, wait a while, and it comes out entirely different. My mother was a Home Eco teacher and a great cook, but my father’s tastes were simple and he preferred the same five or six things over and over and over.

And over.

I learned to cook from my mother (obviously) who approached cooking more as a science than an art. It was all about the chemical reactions between the foods. Precise measuring was critical as was timing. I suppose I am ok in the kitchen. Most of all, I know how to follow a recipe and I think that’s a fine skill to have.

Recently I’ve been inspired by a friend of mine who cooks for her family all the time and has been using a lot of Cooking Light magazine recipes. Typically, I’m cooking only for myself, so this is often an impediment to cooking altogether. However, looking at the things she had prepared, they were almost all 4 servings. Perfect for her three person family and perfect for cutting right in half for little ole me tonight and lunch tomorrow.

I’ve been trying Blue Apron. I say trying because the food is fantastic and fresh and almost always organic and easy to make and just right portions. But the food just kept coming and I kept forgetting to cancel the week before I wasn’t going to be home and consequently I also kept throwing away really great food that had spoiled before I even got to it.

So, I put the Blue Apron on hold, got a Cooking Light subscription and…. Here We Go!

First meal: Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Penne
Follow the link for the recipe itself*

Remember how I just said that I am usually cooking for me, myself and I? Well, every once in a while I’m cooking for a whole bunch of campus ministry college students. We have a smallish group, but it’s a whole lot more than the “single serving” I typically search for.  But those Cooking Light meals are servings for 4, which is easily doubled to 8, which was just what we needed Monday night. And pleasing college students with a “light” meal was a big test. They loved it!

There was no Broccoli Rabe in my local grocery store, so it was regular broccoli. Looks like the nutrition is similar. Although there are more calories, it isn’t significant and IT’S A GREEN VEGETABLE so I think it’s ok. A good place to look for nutritional values I’ve found is here, especially if you like pretty charts and lots of data!  It was easy to make, not quite as quick as the recipe implies, but still not a lot of effort. I will definitely make it again.

Pictured here is the platter with four servings.

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*the Cooking Light website has all of their recipes stored on the My Recipes database. This does not mean, however, that all the recipes at My Recipes are light. They really, to my great disappointment, are not. Even so, My Recipes has a save feature that is admittedly pretty cool. But, my advice is to either buy the magazine or search on Cooking Light for what you want.

 

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End Of Summer Canning

Well, I want to be canning but it seems that I can’t get there from here because my schedule is overflowing with work things to do. However, it appears there may be canning opportunities next week!

What to can? Well, I’m not completely sure what will be on the menu, though apples are likely. Barber’s Orchard is just down the road and they’ve got some delicious apples! I found this article about what kinds of foods are in season in North Carolina throughout the year and it seems, logically, that what’s in season is what’s eligible for preserving. I’d like to freeze some things but I have extremely limited freezer space so I couldn’t really do much with that.

Although I’d be happy to not deal with apple sauce for a while (due to the relatively recent apple sauce extravaganza at the church with over 21 gallon bags to freeze), I’m still quite likely to do something or another with apples. I’d like to make stewed (not sauced) apples or something like I usually put into apple pies so that I could have canned apple pie filling. I’ve still got some of these spiced apples that I canned a couple of years ago and they’re pretty yummy but not exactly what I wanted to do.

Hopefully more posts and photos of fruity veggie goodness will follow soon!

Freezing Fresh Basil

Last week I joined several ladies at the church for a “Canning Bee” as we sliced, cooked, squished, and bagged countless apples into over 20 gallons of applesauce. It was all spooned into plastic bags and frozen and it made quite a windfall for the Community Table! While I think it is really great to give food to community organizations that provide meals to those who need some assistance, I also think it’s pretty awesome to give them really GOOD food–good tasting and good for you, too!

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That same day, the woman with the proliferation of apples brought an equally abundant harvest of basil. In fact, it was so much basil that the whole church smelled deliciously of basil even the next day long after the apples were gone.

Ultimately, I was the recipient of the lion’s share of this harvest (two gallon sized bags crammed full!) and was delighted but clueless as to what to do with it all. My hope was to make pesto at some point but that point was not any time soon, so the only option I could come across was freezing.

However, I’ve never frozen basil before. One suggestion I had been given was to place them flat in a ziplock and freeze them that way. Then they could be crushed when frozen and wouldn’t have to be chopped. I was pretty worried that they would turn brown or black if I did that. I did a small sample of leaves in this way and while it was super easy to “chop” them by simply squishing the bag, they did indeed turn quite dark.

Even though I was willing to use a small portion of the enormous bounty of basil for that test, I wasn’t willing to risk it all, so I found a solution on Pinterest. (see my Pinterest page for my boards.) Here’s what I found and it really does a super job and it’s part way towards the pesto I want to make, too, because it involves olive oil.

You will need: fresh basil, olive oil of your choice, some kind of container to freeze it in that is (my suggestion) no larger than a 1 cup size.

Wash the leaves, trimming off any flowers and long stems. Let them air dry on a paper towel or clean dishtowels. This took about 20 min for me and I wasn’t super patient about the drying part! It was really late at night and I’d been chopping and squishing apples all day!

There seem to be several options at this point.

Chopping: fine or coarse. I chose coarse because, as I said, I was tired. Plus, my little tiny food processor would have taken FOREVER to do this much basil–if, of course, I could find the blades!

Containers: some people choose to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. I thought that was a brilliant idea! I didn’t have any, though, and I did have a few of those ziplock type small plastic containers. I think you could use anything you wanted but I’d guess it shouldn’t be more than about a cup size since you’ll have to thaw the whole container when you’re ready to use it.

Pour a layer of olive oil in the bottom of the container and swish it to cover the sides. The OO is what keeps the leaves from turning dark, so you want as much of everything covered as possible. Pack in the leaves, covering with the oil, and stick in the freezer. I did mine in layers since it was a rough chop: put in a bunch of basil, pour in some OO, squish, repeat.

Yummmy! I’m looking forward to making pesto soon!

I’m Sorry, I’m So Sorry

Last week I had a small though frustrating incident with another person that made me think about what it means to ask for forgiveness. The details of the incident are irrelevant because, largely speaking, they are first world problems that did dr whono permanent damage to me and are ultimately insignificant in the brushstrokes of time. The apology consisted of this: I’m sorry, but…. I’m sorry that I did this thing that caused you trouble and frustration, but it was actually someone else’s fault because they made me do it. Now, as I am typing this, I’m tempted to put that phrase in little quotation marks as though quoting this individual alone but it seems only fair to say not only do we all do this at some point, I know I have done this, too. I’m not happy about saying that because it is the cold hard truth. Often, I will use the phrase with sarcasm, such as: I’m sorry you are upset about something petty in your life but the world does go on. This sort of “I’m sorry, but…” is not so much an apology as it is a parody of “I’m sorry things are this way for you.” I say parody because I’m actually being sarcastic. However, I know I, as probably all of us, have used the phrase *“I’m sorry, but” in a contrived apologetic manner. This exchange last week has actually been a wonderful opportunity for me because it has brought all of that (that is to say all that faux apology stuff that I do, too, and really don’t want to do any more) to mind and it has reminded me of a very significant act of apology which was given to me many years ago.

One totally random day over a decade ago, I received a hand written letter of apology from a woman who had once been a girl who assisted in making my school years a misery of teasing, betrayal, and outcast status. She wasn’t the big bully who had picked on me, not any of the big bullies actually, but she was probably one step less obvious and more poisonous. She had been my friend. She had been one of those girls who acted like a friend only to turn on you when the cool kids were around. Since I knew her nearly all of my public school life and was a sucker who was desperate for a friend, she had many opportunities to do this kind of thing over and over again. There were other things, too, but this is the general category and gives the flavor cruelty I experienced.

The letter was a genuine, simple, complete apology. She enumerated in a general and concise way that still showed she was apologizing for specific events as well as an overall falseness in relationship. While I am certain that there were reasons why she did what she did that most likely involved pain on her part which ended up redirected at me rather than at who or what had harmed her, she did not make excuses or give mitigating reasons for her actions. She simply said: I did this, I regret it, I am sorry. Now that is an apology! That is an attempt at what a genuine reconciliation can look like. She didn’t seek to make me feel sorry for her or let go of hurt and anger because I could, through some rendering of her own tortured heart, identify that her suffering was greater than my own and excuse rather than forgive her treatment of me.

Excusing a behavior is when I have a headache and snap at my secretary and then, realizing what I did and why, I return to her office and say, “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I have a headache.” This is acceptable because the slight shown my secretary was impolite or rude, not personal, long lasting, or more than a single isolated event. The desire on my part is to be excused of the rude behavior not because she will feel sorry for me but because she, too, knows what it’s like to be grumpy with a headache.  This is fine when there has been a small slight, an impolite moment, but when there have been trespasses upon another in such a way as to fray or damage a relationship or, worse still, deeply harm or reshape another person altogether, this is not appropriate. When we have deeply harmed another, there is a genuine wound present which we caused and there is no amount of “but”, either spoken or implied in a litany of describing perceived justifications, that can close that wound in them.

Here’s why I believe this is true. First, actions done to you by others do not justify actions you do to someone else. They may have a cause and effect relationship of some sort, but the first does not make it right (that is, justify) what you have done to another. Second, it denies the person whom you have wronged the ability to ask the question that hums through the heart of most of us when we’ve been harmed: why? It is important that a wronged party have the chance to ask the question rather than have the answer thrust down their throat and, once again, being trespassed upon. It also denies them the right to say they don’t care why; and they have that right. Regardless of how much we may wish to give reasons why we did what we did, it is better to wait, hold out the hand palm up, so to speak, and wait for the engagement of the other, giving them the option to ask and engage us. Or not.

It is likely that a desire to answer the “why” question is sometimes a motivator in our over explaining apologies. As children, we are often told to explain our actions and it becomes an anticipated part of conversations when we are “in trouble” with authority. Additionally, we have most likely experienced the “why” question welling up from one of our own wounds and may be trying to satisfy our own need for answers by doing what those who have harmed us will not. However, I suspect that ultimately we hope to turn the other person’s anger, resentment, or hurt into sympathy for us. Like the wild animal that attacks the hand giving a kind gesture and only does so because it is wounded, we want the person we attacked to see us as a victim, too. But unless the action was a mere isolated act of rudeness or unless you are nothing more than a wild animal, this sort of behavior is inappropriate. In truth, it can become a sort of passive-aggressive suffering one-upmanship designed, albeit potentially subconsciously, to make the other person apologize to YOU for not realizing YOUR deeper pain.

And yet if we wait for the “why” question, all the context information we want so desperately to impart becomes not the reason to be excused that we wish it to be but is a response to the other person’s need. That is the beginning of rebuilding and of reconciliation. The person harmed must be given the space to ask their questions and the choice whether or not to ask them at all. This empowers them and begins to restore to them the power they had lost to the one who harmed them. It isn’t by any means, the whole of reconciliation and healing, but it is a move in that direction and it opens the door to it in a way that all our vehement self-justification never could.

So here are some final thoughts I have on apology, both for myself as much as for anyone else. If you are seeking forgiveness for something and find yourself ready to give a laundry list of reasons why you did what you did, stop and think about what you’re really doing.

  • Are you afraid they won’t forgive you? Yes, they might not forgive you, but do it anyway. Apologize because it is the right thing for you to do and refrain from passing judgment on what the other person will or will not do. It is not your place to do this.
  • Are you afraid you won’t get to share your side of the experience or is there forgiveness the other person should also be seeking from you, too? Well, you might not get to say anything more, but then again it is likely you will. It will be more beneficial to everyone including yourself if you wait for the “why” questions. After the “why”s, dialog is open and you may be able to talk about other issues as well.
  • Are you trying to manipulate someone else? Apologies are a cheap and ugly form of emotional manipulation if you are actually not seeking forgiveness and resolution. So don’t do it. Ever. It is truly deeply a lie to do so.
  • Are you hurting from the wounds inflicted by someone else that have been motivators for you to hurt the one you wish to apologize to? Remember you are not a wild animal and you are responsible for your own actions. This does not mean you have to beat yourself up eternally for something you did because of your own wounds, but it does mean you need help. So get it. And remember that it is not the fault of anyone you’ve harmed and all the sympathy that they possess cannot heal YOU. They are entitled to their “why” moment just as you are, so make a genuine apology and wait for their “why” and if it doesn’t come that is just fine. But do not wait to get help with your own wounds.
  • Are you afraid to admit you were wrong and you screwed up? Join the club! So is the rest of the human race, so know you’re in good company and be honest with yourself and the person you’ve hurt. Own up to it, apologize, don’t say but, and move on.

So what happened to the girl from my childhood who wrote that letter of apology? Actually, I don’t know. I do not know where she is or what she’s doing. I never asked the “why” question because honestly as a grown up I knew why; at least in that general sense of human beings passing along the hurt others have committed and doing things they regret. That is enough for me. I think of this letter every time I need to apologize for something and it is my prayer I will do it with the same sincerity and vulnerability that she did. Her apology was a gift to me, not just because it acknowledged what it did, but also because it has become for me a benchmark of the first steps in reconciliation with others.

*Somewhere a long time ago I read an interesting thing about the word but. It stands for Behold the Undeniable Truth. I’d like to visit my grandmother but it’s raining outside. I’d like to visit my grandmother, behold the undeniable truth, I don’t want to bad enough to put on a raincoat. You get the picture. It is a quite reasonable word to use, but it is important to think about whether or not we’re just saying a nice platitude to cover for what we really feel.

Creative Impulse

Often, we seem to think that creativity is an uncontrollable impulse. It seems that all kinds of creative endeavors, from photography to painting or fabric arts to sculpture or writing to metalwork, are dependent upon the fickle and capricious appearance of this impulse. It comes and goes as it will and we are at this muse’s whim.

However, this may not be exactly as full an understanding of creativity as we might think. I’m not convinced that we are utterly at the mercy of creativity’s impulsive nature. Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen In the Art of Writing,  gives many good ideas on how to tame the muse or, put another way, find ways to stimulate creativity and not be continually at the mercy of its appearance (or absence).

A recent post on a chainmailing blog I follow has some fantastic ideas as well. Actually, they are ideas that come from some seasoned artists. The post summarizes the various suggestions and recommends some good books to read. It’s an excellent post and well worth the read! And these are good ideas and suggestions whether your vocation includes a creative component or if you need creative sparks in any area of your life.

For me, the very best things that have helped me remain creative personally and professional are simple: write every day even if it is a seemingly uninspiring journal entry, read both fiction and non fiction as much as I can, put intentional focus on the details, patterns, colors, people, animals and natural elements of the world around me, and when I realize I am stuck with a project(which usually occurs about 3 hours into stuck-ness) I get up and do something completely different for a while.

Of course, sometimes creativity simply won’t flow. There’s a reason why people sometimes equate a time when they cannot get moving creatively as dry and desert like. It seems that these times are a little like the times when people come to see me for pastoral care. In a crisis, even a mild one, our vision becomes narrowed. We see fewer options, see less support, help, and connections to our world around us. It is as if we are seeing, thinking and feeling with blinders on.  We remove those, or at least shift them out a bit, when we move out of ourselves and broaden our vision. The same is true for creativity.

Got ways you spark your creativity? I’d love to hear about it!

Oh Savannah

Oh Sa Vannah! Oh don’t you cry for me!

Wait, I think that’s wrong.

Anyhow, photos of the loveliness that is Savanna, GA.  It was very good to go earlier in the spring because it was not so hot you melted into the ground and it wasn’t so humid either. Yet still full of all the pretty!

If you go to Savannah  you cannot avoid all the ghost stories and the fact that everyone insists that where they live or work is the most haunted place in America. So, of course a visit to one of the many historic cemeteries is in order. This bird was on a branch of a tree at the cemetery. The tree itself was nearly dead and covered in Spanish Moss that was a soft, powdery greywhite cloud around the tree. Like a ghost of what was once the green moss virtually dripping with life. What would have been a rather ordinary looking bird in some other context was just so beautiful sitting there. It is, perhaps, my favorite shot of the whole trip.

One of the things Savannah is well known for is all of the beautiful ironwork. You find it everywhere and I must have taken dozens and dozens of photos of ironwork doors, fences, railings and other details.

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Hidden gardens are pretty much everywhere all over the city. Peering over a wall, you can see all kinds of things, even a petrified lion!

And sometimes, gardens escape over the wall and into the alley!

No trip to the city is complete without a visit to the big fountain in Forsythe Park. I am amazed that I was able to get this shot without people in the background because this is a major congregating place for people, both locals and tourists.

I love trees and Savannah is full of them!

This was a particularly unusual tree. I have no idea what kind it is but it looked like one of those statues that has been carved with drapey fabric. It was very strange!

And the big bridge! With a storm right behind it. So it was time to go home. Farewell Savannah! Until we meet again.