Cookin Mama

Cookin Mama


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Beer and Christianity

 ..."Make peace and be at peace. Treat each other with humility and patience. Help each other in love..."

I have had some interesting things said to me regarding my Christianity. Most notable was the comment regarding my love of craft beer and my love of Jesus, suggesting these are mutually exclusive things. I refer you to this Martin Luther quote: “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”

The Lutheran reformer was joking I suspect, and if not, I certainly do not believe drinking beer will help me enter Heaven.  I'm happy to keep it up though, just to be sure...

I do identify as a Christian. But for many years I was quiet about this...not for embarrassment, but for not wanting to immediately be labeled "judgmental", "bigoted", or worse.  I seriously thought for a few months in my 20s that I couldn't attend church anymore because it seemed (thanks media) that in order to do so, you had to renounce your love for your gay friends.  Americans ages 16-29 were polled and 91% identified Christians as "anti-homosexual."  NINETY ONE PERCENT.  I guess I wasn't alone in my concern.  In a recent sermon, our Pastor shared that something like 87% of Americans believe Christians to be judgmental.  He pointed out as well that a good number of that 87% would be Christians themselves.  Interesting when you think about it, no?  Take also this point: I have friends who have posted hurtful comments on social media about "idiots" who believe in a "supreme being."  Therefore, I now have friends who think I am an idiot and judgmental.  How do I, as a modern Christian, live my life in a way that reflects my beliefs, without alienating others, but allows for me to share my thoughts and hopes? 

Our mission teams were speaking recently about the wonderful service they had shared with others over the past year.   One reported that when they go to help at the Reservations, they may not identify as Christians.  Instead, they say they are "walking the Jesus walk."  I loved that.  I can only imagine the looks on the faces of some friends if I said that to them.  I sort of giggled when I thought of it actually.  Here's the thing though, stop and think for a moment about that comment.   Jesus did, by all accounts, walk the talk.  Jesus would NEVER had wanted the fighting, the hate, the attempt to ban a portion of the population from enjoying full rights based on their sexuality...I believe he would be appalled quite frankly.  Even some non-religious folks have agreed to the historical figure of Jesus.  That he was a teacher, he ministered to the poor and sick, and he did a lot of good.  That is what Christianity is for me.  The GOOD.  I am so very sad for those in Christianity who do not have that...that do not have the joy of the faith...that somehow it has turned ugly, hateful, dividing.

My husband and I both recently agreed that one of the best things we ever did was start attending church together again, as a family.  Among other things, it has made us really THINK.  Our Pastors speak so eloquently on Sundays, they teach, they give you ideas, foundation, and reminders.  No fire and brimstone, no admonishments or lectures.  I imagine it is akin to my friends who meditate.  That moment when the idea gels and you think "yes!" "This is how I should handle this problem," or, "goodness, I had better go apologize to that person" goes on. 

Back to my fellow Christians, remember John 13:34 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. I believe this is the moment in the Bible where the most important commandment was given. To. Love. One. Another.  Not judge one another, not hate one another, but LOVE.  This is what I wish for everyone.  I honestly do not wish to convert anyone.  I honor all my friends, their diverse beliefs, personalities, colors, I hope they do mine.  Do I sometimes wish that the world could come hear our Pastors speak on love, acceptance, and the joy of our faith?  Yes.  Do I have a daydream that just hearing those themes could help heal so many souls and end some fighting?  You bet.  Does that mean that I think horrid thoughts about you because you do not attend my church or a church?  NO.  Do I judge those who do not attend every Sunday?  Gosh no.  I heard women make comments to my mother growing up "Missed you last Sunday Bonnie..." with THAT tone.  You know what I'm talking about. The same one that says "you're in my pew" or, "that's MY seat."  

I am not perfect.  As the song says, "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood." Anyone who knows me knows how far from perfect I am.  They know that I do not always follow my own advice above, and have a difficult time loving everyone.  I have a short fuse for some things.  But I'm trying.  I'm learning.  I'm growing.  And I have a touch point.  A place to go to be reminded I'm not alone, a place to be given grace.  That's all some of us need really.  Grace.  

Starting next month, I am embarking on a new chapter in my life.  I will continue at the hospital as their volunteer manager, but I will now also be taking on the part time role of director of congregational engagement at my church.  The role is so very similar in both places.  To look for missions in need, and find those who are willing to fill that need.  I love doing those matches.  It is heart wrenching sometimes to read of others struggles, but to be a facilitator of filling the void is so very rewarding.  And the days when it is super challenging?  Ah, that's where the craft beer comes in my friends.

In closing, I think the answer to my question on how to not alienate or divide is to walk the Jesus walk.  To treat others as I hope to be treated.  I promise to keep an open mind, an open door, and an open heart.  I ask that you do the same, in whatever aspect of life you know me (even if it's just this blog).  Speaking of this blog, I suppose a good, old fashioned church supper recipe should be posted soon...with the appropriate beer pairing suggested. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guacamole, with the cutest sous chef EVER.

There are many things I love about cooking.  While I may not be good enough to do it for a living, I love the living we do together as a family through cooking.  I love my daughter tying on her apron to help.  I love that all of us pitch in, that Daddy enjoys it as much as Mama.  We have, in the past month, managed to build a meal plan for each week and stick to it...and stick to a budget.  Each week gets better, and sometimes tastier!  This week is awesome because it features Mark's South American beans.  I'm going to have to update that or make a new blog...he got a recipe from a friend from Mexico to make the beans even better.  At any rate, he sometimes makes an extra large batch and freezes some...this week we took some out of the freezer and made yummies!  Talk about a budget friendly week!

Monday: Beans and Rice Bowl
Tuesday: Taco night (or, for Lego fans: TACO TUESDAY!)
Wednesday: lucky to be asked to dine at friends' homes
Thursday: leftovers - family pick, rice bowl or taco ... or both!
Friday: Pizza night

Daddy and daughter putting together their soft tacos.  Decisions....decisions...

Tonight's recipe is simple, it came with our Vitamix (best. investment. ever.), and while I'm sure we could augment/make better/make our own, I'm just happy to share pictures of my daughter helping to make it!

Vitamix Guacamole

There is an official Vitamix recipe here, but ours was a bit different.  Same ingredient list, but prepared in stages and on variable speed 2 only.

  • 1 medium Roma tomato, halved or 3/4 cup chopped
  • 1/2 cup (10 g) fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) chopped red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted
Put salt, lemon juice, cilantro, 2 avocados, and 1/3 of the tomato in the Vitamix.  Run on variable speed 2 for 20 seconds, tamp down.  Add in remaining tomato and avocado, run again 20 seconds at variable 2.

We added more salt and some extra cut up tomato after, just stirring it in.  It would be awesome with some jalapeno as well.

The kiddo's jobs were juicing the lemon, measuring the juice, and placing in the Vitamix.  She also scooped out the avocado (Mama cut and removed the pit).  I love the smell of cilantro on my fingers, but I could have had her pull the leaves as well.  Lots of steps kids can help with this dish.  Added bonus?  She licked some avocado from her fingers and said "oh!  I didn't realize I like this!" 

Evie doing her best "chef's pose" from Chopped

I really really wished we had tortilla chips in the house to eat this with.  Seriously, I could have just taken a spoon and eaten this for dinner.  Instead, I contented myself with slathering it on my little flour tortilla and add a bit of chicken.  Nom.  Thanks to the Peanut for her excellent sous cheffing and help!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thai Fish Chowder, Mama-style


Many of you know we've made a commitment in this house to meal plan.  We did this for a number of reasons.  One, budgetary.  Two, to be less wasteful.  If all the food purchased is purchased for a reason and has a place on the plan, then it will be eaten.  Third, and most important, for our health.  Now, do not get me wrong.  We are NOT the 100 Days of Real Food people.  I currently have all three types of "monster cereal" in my pantry.  However, I still maintain that (almost) any food you cook at home for your family is still healthier than prepared, processed food purchased elsewhere.  I do my best to plan for meals that are as wholesome as possible.  Mind you, I'm typing this blog as I bake cupcakes and a vat of macaroni and cheese for a gathering.  Hey.  I never said I was trying to be perfect...just trying to be the best me I can!

Last week's meal plan was a huge winner.  $116 in groceries for the week, that includes breakfasts and packed lunches, along with our meals.  Nothing went to waste, and we all felt great!  This week started out a little more pricey, but I still have hopes for a good week.  (I'm just going to keep the bill for the party food separate).  The first meal of the week came from my new subscription to Rachel Ray's magazine.  I'm very pleased with this purchase, the first edition is riddled with my little sticky recipe should keep me busy for awhile!  I noted two fish chowders, and had planned on making the first one I found, until I saw "Thai" in the second recipe's title. We love Thai in this house.  Evie constantly asks for "spicy chicken," which is a chicken in coconut red curry sauce.  This Thai fish chowder had coconut milk, green curry, and cilantro.  SOLD!  However, we like a little more flavor and kick than what the original recipe offered, so I will reproduce Rachel Ray's recipe below, but with our changes.

Thai Fish Chowder

adapted from EveryDay with Rachel Ray 
EveryDay Easy Meals ©2012 Meredith Corporation
  • One package Thai rice noodles
  • Boiling water
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste (or, more if you'd like. I think my husband wishes we had put the entire bottle in)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pound cod (the recipe called for tilapia...we don't eat tilapia, so I tried cod) - cut into 1- to 2- inch pieces.
  • 1 package coleslaw vegetable mix
  • 2 limes.  1 juiced and 1 cut into wedges for serving
  • 1/2 cup cleaned cilantro leaves

1. Boil water, pour over rice noodles, let sit for 8-10 minutes, drain, and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, whisk together 3 cups of water, the 2 cans of coconut milk, curry paste (to taste), and 1 teaspoon salt. (we added A LOT of salt at the table, I suggest adding a dash of fish sauce...that's what we're going to try next time).  Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat.

3. Stir in the fish and coleslaw veggies and simmer until the fish is opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice.

4. Divide noodles among the bowls and ladle the chowder over.  Top with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

This was so simple and SO good, I'm sure it will be repeated.  It probably took 20 minutes, tops, from start to finish.  Great quick meal for those busy nights!!! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lucky to Know You!

The annual Pennsylvania Society of Volunteer Management Professionals in Healthcare's Conference happened last week. It was one of the best I have attended in my 11 years as a Director of Volunteer Services (DVS). It was held in State College, PA, which is absolutely beautiful this time of year.   The picture above is just outside the conference center entrance.  I took it the morning of the final day.  The conference was jam packed with information, incredibly knowledgeable speakers, and lots of best practices ideas.  I know it is rare for me to blog about my work, especially without a recipe.  However, something happened when I arrived home that really touched me, and I wanted to share it here with all of you.  If I write up anything professional, I have LinkedIn for that. 

As I mentioned, I've been a DVS 11 years.  All eleven have been spent as a member of this professional group.  I spent a few years quietly learning, then I started participating.  First as marketing chair, then professional development...on and on until I spent the past two years as president of our Central Chapter of PSDVS.  My term is up in December, and I am a cross between sad and relieved.  There have been ups and downs, mostly ups.  I will not be leaving the group, but I will no longer be leading it...other than providing whatever help I can to my colleagues in our field.  A field with no guide book, no degree program, no professors. Or, does it?  Sure, we have our certification process.  Yes, our organizations require some sort of degree.  But our professors?  Our professors ARE our colleagues.  90% of what I have learned has come from those who welcomed me into this career.  The other 10% is trial by error.  There have been many amazing woman who have mentored me, helped shape my professional model, and have offered their assistance.  Most of my "favorites" have since retired and left our group.  Some come back from time to time, like two super awesome ladies who volunteered to help at this year's conference, manning the registration, welcoming, and making me smile with their presence.  I thought my conference was complete when, upon leaving, they informed me how proud of me they are.  It could have been complete just then...I mean, two women I look up to telling me they are proud of little old ME?!  But I haven't gotten to the good part yet. 

On Friday, I was asked to facilitate a session.  Not present, just help move along and mediate a "rant and rave session" where one member posses a question, and those with best practices can share ideas and answers.  To me, I didn't do much, I am comfortable in that type of situation.  The hour went quickly.  I was presented with a VISA gift card and a small box.  I was honored to have been asked and included in the conference.  The gift was unexpected and I thanked the giver, then placed the card and box in my bag.  I finished out the conference, then took off for home in hopes of making it there in time to see my little one off the bus.  Happily, I did make it!  Once we were all home, I brought out their presents, Penn State gear for all!  I then remembered the little box my friend had handed me.  I went to my bag, took it out, and opened it.  Inside was a little metal business card case with the words "Thank You" in enamel on the front.  I smiled at the thoughtful gift...and then I opened it and gasped.  These business card cases were the legacy of one of those women I mentioned earlier, a mentor, a source of humor when we needed uplifting, a real great gal.  Lois had suggested these cases as a way to thank those who shared their wisdom with our group at educational sessions.  She has been retired from our field for a number of years now, having suffered medical issues making her unable to continue the work she so loved, and was so good at doing.  Inside my case was a card that said "I'm so lucky to know you! ~Lois"  What a beautiful reminder of a wonderful woman, and a timely reminder to be thankful everyday.  My work may frustrate me, I may feel overwhelmed, stressed, etc...but I will only have to look at my little card case and remember those who came before me and who regard me as someone they are happy to know.  I am happy to know you too Lois.  You, our colleagues, and everyone who helped me as I continue to strive to reach the level she and others have achieved.  Your card may have been placed there a few years ago when you prepared these in advance, but I chose to believe God made sure one made it into my hands when I needed it most.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Salisbury is not just for TV dinners!

I'm baaaack!  Readers of this blog know two things about me and my family.  One, we like celebrating events through cooking around here, and two, cooler fall weather = better cooking weather and more blog posts.  Honestly, the heat this summer all but chased me out of my beloved kitchen.  There were a lot of salads with cold smoked salmon, cereal, and other cool dishes for dinner.  Nothing worth blogging about.  Then with the return of school came a health scare for our daughter.  All is well now, and while an actual cause has not been found, we believe postnasal drip + dehydration = dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).  Poor Evie ended up hospitalized for five days, then discharged with a feeding tube in place.  She was brave and a fighter, and quickly worked back to swallowing food and fluids...and yesterday the tube was removed! celebrate...any guesses?  Yep. We picked a new recipe AND my sous chef returned to duty!  It's been at least a year I think since one of our recipe posts featured my adorable and helpful little junior chef.  To say I was happy is the largest understatement of the year.

Cuisine at Home recently sent me their teaser issue.  I had let my subscription lapse, this was their way of luring me back in, and it worked.  I am now the proud owner of a two year subscription to Cuisine at Home.  If this first recipe result is any indication, it was the best $28 I've ever spent.   Evie and I chose old school Salisbury Steak.  They call this recipe "French Onion Salisbury Steak" which is accurate, you end up with what amounts to a large, tasty meatball in the center of a delicious oniony soup with a hunk of cheese toast.  Seriously, doesn't get much better than that.  While it doesn't sound particularly health conscious, the calorie count for the dinner is under 500 (337 for the soup and steak and 172 for the toast).  It was filling, warm, and comforting.  We decided it would be a perfect snowy day meal to tuck into this winter.  I also had a fun time explaining what a TV dinner was to Evie.  The magazine explains that Salisbury steak was a go-to meal before the arrival of TV dinners made it a frozen food pariah.  After last night, we're fans of this dish!  I just hope she isn't unpleasantly surprised when she orders it in a school cafeteria...   

Cutest helper EVER. 


French Onion Salisbury Steak

Cuisine at Home, "Teaser Issue"

For the Steak
1 1/4 lb ground chuck
1/4    cup minced fresh parsley
2       tbsp minced scallions
1       tsp kosher salt
1/2    tsp black pepper
2       tbsp all-purpose flour

For the Sauce
1       tbsp olive oil
2       cups sliced onions
1       tsp sugar
1       tbsp minced garlic
1       tbsp tomato paste
2       cups low-sodium beef broth
1/4    cup dry red wine
3/4    tsp kosher salt
1/2    tsp dried thyme

For serving: cheese toasts (recipe follows), minced fresh parsley, shredded parmesan

Combine ground chuck, 1/4 cup parsley, scallions, salt, and pepper.  Divide evenly into four portions and shape each into 3/4 to 1 inch thick oval patties.  Place tbsp flour in a shallow dish; dredge each patty in flour.  Reserve 1 tsp flour.

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high.  Add patties and sauté 3 minutes on each side, or until browned.  Remove from pan.

Add onions and sugar to pan; sauté 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and tomato paste; sauté until paste begins to brown, 1 minute.  Sprinkle mixture with reserved flour; cook 1 minute.  Stir in broth, wine, salt, and thyme.

Return meat to pan; bring sauce to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

Serve steaks on cheese toasts with onion sauce ladled over.  Garnish with parsley and Parmesan.

Cheese Toasts

Cover four 1/2-inch thick slices of Italian bread with butter, garlic, and paprika.  Sprinkle a mixture of shredded Parmesan and Swiss cheeses (we used sharp provolone instead of Swiss) evenly over each slice.  Toast in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.