Friday, August 31, 2012

Pumpkin Ice Cream

We gave away ice cream on a hot August afternoon. It was for a good cause. The Drake House, a local non-profit serving single moms and their children, was holding its annual fund-raising event, Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’. Volunteers and organizations made gallons of homemade ice cream to give away. Participants and tasters paid their money to sample lots of flavors.

We at Christ Church were excited to support a worthy non-profit, so we packed up a table and decorations and spooned out our ice cream. We did, however, we had an additional incentive. In one short month, our church will begin what is for us our largest annual event; our Pumpkin Patch. By the beginning of October, the front yard of our church will be covered with pumpkins big and small. It is the biggest outreach to the community that we offer. Our hope in attending the ice Cream Crankin’ was to offer invitations along with ice cream samples. We thought the best and most tasty reminder would be pumpkin ice cream.

Though I had heard of pumpkin ice cream before, I was taken aback by the astonishment and reluctance we saw when we told folks what we had. The hesitation didn’t last long, however. Almost everyone who tried it became an immediate fan. It was delicious! Even I was surprised by how good it was and I made some of it! We won a lot of converts to pumpkin ice cream that day. I hope, through our invitations, they will also become coverts to Jesus. But first they had to try something new; take that first step into the unknown.

Taking those steps is rarely a popular thing to do. None of us like it, and almost never will we make it our choice. Many of us United Methodist clergy got to do just that a few months ago when our General Conference decided to do away with the practice of guaranteed appointments. Having been in place for several decades, the system of guaranteed appointments meant that while we clergy agreed to go where we are sent, the church agreed to send us somewhere. The repeal of this practice stunned many of us. I began wondering if I could afford law school. Am I too old to learn a new language? Is there a field of work out there that will feed my kids and pay my mortgage, and what will it take for me to do it?

After much prayer, I realize that God is calling me into the unknown . . . of the path I am already on. The work that I do every day is as much a leap of faith as venturing out onto some new trail, to a new and never-before-experienced place. Sometimes staying where we already are is as much a step into the unknown as turning new corners. The only certainty we have – or have ever had – is Emmanuel, God with us. The rest is always mystery.

So I’ll try new ice cream and keep my old job for as long as God means for it to be so. Most of all, I will welcome the unknown that greets me anew every day.
Blessed eating!

Pumpkin Ice Cream
4 oz. egg substitute            1½ cups heavy cream
1 cup of sugar                       tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin                    1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger           1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, processor, or blender. Mix well and chill thoroughly. Process in ice cream maker for 30-40 minutes.

Monday, August 20, 2012


O Lord, you have searched me and
    known me.
You know when I sit down and when I
   rise up;
you discern my thoughts from  far away.
You search out my path and my
   lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.    Psalm 139:1-3

“Hi. I’m Roland.”

We already knew this, of course, being his parents and all.  Still, we were charmed by our son’s use of a movie line tailored to the purpose of introducing himself.

The line came from Finding Nemo, a movie about father and son fish who get separated, and about their adventures in reuniting and returning to the place where they belong.  The piece of the script that Roland chose came from a group meeting held by sharks trying to give up their fish-eating habit.  Mimicking traditional 12 step meetings, each participant begins by introducing himself.  I suppose Roland likes imagining himself at that meeting, and I think he is doing well.  He almost never eats fish.

When I hear my son offer his name in the style of such meetings, I think about how important it is for us to be able to say who we are.  Identity is such a complex thing.  Most of us would likely struggle to really offer a clear picture of ourselves.  Each one of us is such a complicated mixture of natural inclination combined with culture, relationship, location and time.  It is often excruciatingly difficult to know ourselves.  In truth, beyond our first name, how accurately can we introduce this complicated compound of humanity called me or you?

I imagine the first step in self-understanding lies in acknowledging the unfathomable mystery of ourselves and the God who made us.  Beyond the image we would like to project, there lies intricacy and beauty that only God could fashion.  The first step in comprehending it is the realization that we are beloved, carefully built by our creator, and that each part of us – even the less pleasing aspects – are blessed and purposeful.

Another important piece of our identity arises from the people who inhabit our lives, and from the ways we share with each other.  Roland’s presentation came at a dinner we had with friends.  (Soon their children were introducing themselves to each other and to us following the same cadence and tone.)  I served several items from the Bass cookbook, including broccoli salad, a dish I have eaten at countless covered dish lunches and family dinners.  It is a part of a tradition and a culture that has shaped me.  If you asked me to describe myself, broccoli salad would not feature strongly.  In fact, I am not likely to mention it at all.  But it is one of surely millions of invisible factors that have formed me into the person I am today, for better or worse - one of the subtle influences that tell me where I belong.

What are some of the foods, the relationships, the traditions that have shaped you?

Blessed eating!

Broccoli Salad
2 heads broccoli, coarsely chopped    ¾-1 c. red or sweet onion, ch.
½ c. raisins                                                  ½ c. toasted pecans, ch.
½ c. real bacon bits
Mix all ingredients.  Add the dressing below and marinate at least 24 hours.
Broccoli Dressing:
2 T. red wine vinegar                                  ¾ fat free mayo
½ c. sugar
Place in a container and shake until well mixed.  Pour over the broccoli mixture. – Wanda Barnes

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

Blessed is the one
  who does not walk in step with the wicked
  or stand in the way that sinners take
  or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
  and who meditates on his law day and night.  Psalm 1:1-2

It has been a heck of a summer.  Far busier and speedier than I had imagined it would be.  Where did the time go?  It is already August and the kids are back in school. 

It was a great summer, though.  We travelled a bit.  Ate fresh tomatoes in Vicksburg, Mississippi, snacked on beignets and sipped lattes in New Orleans.  We visited with family, played at the beach, told stories for Vacation Bible School and attended Annual Conference.  We even had a new experience: Todd attended camp meeting and I experienced life as a full time working parent!

During 10 days in July, Todd worked as the coordinator of youth and young adults at Morrison Campground near Rome, Georgia.  Morrison Campground is a lovely place filled with “tents” (cabins) with woodchip floors, some beautiful woods and a spring in the back where children can wade in the cold water.  People gather there once a year to greet old friends and hear preaching.  I am impressed with any event that brings people to worship several times a day.

The kids and I visited Todd, but most of our time was back at the home front.  I learned the joys of being a single working parent.  While attending meetings, writing for church website and publications, calling on the sick and finishing a sermon, I also got to do laundry, meal prep and entertainment for two children who are only in school for three hours a day, three days a week.  That is an awful lot of entertaining.

I began with a spreadsheet outlining my schedule, including activities, outings and even meal plans.  While the contents of this grid mostly became the star in a tale of good intentions, I don’t know what I would have done without it.  It was helpful to have occupations planned ahead of time.  I was also rescued by invitations to dinner from friends and childcare services from relatives.  It really does take a village.

During my single parenthood – and the kid’s incarceration to my way of doing things – I decided to try some foods that I have been wanting to sample.  The first of these was Spaghetti Squash.  I had been told about spaghetti squash, that it cooks into long strings like spaghetti or vermicelli.  That it has a very mild taste so that it can be eaten as pasta.  That the eater can hardly tell the difference.  I scarcely believed this seemingly too-good-to-be-true tale, but I had to try it.

I bought a spaghetti squash at the farmer’s market, then Googled information on how to prepare it.  Cooking directions were easy to come by (below).  After cooking, cutting and scraping it out, I did have something on my plate which looked sort of like a pile of noodles.  I put marinara sauce on Vivi’s, cheese on Roland’s (as if he might think it was macaroni).  To my utter astonishment, the kids actually liked it!  By “like,” of course, I mean that my daughter ate some voluntarily, and Roland needed only the mildest of time-out threats.  All in all, I considered it a successful venture.

My kids are like any others.  Their tastes are set on foods they are used to; the typical kid fare of pasta and pizza and chicken nuggets.  They won’t necessarily like grown up eats, even the delicacies we pick out for them.  The best meaning parent offering their child the most delectable treat may find it rejected in theatrical disgust.  Like any other kids, mine want what they want. 

But why should they be any different from the adults around them?  We live in a society where we are used to wanting what we want and usually getting it.  We see commercials and billboards every day telling us we deserve whatever our hearts desire, though I’ve yet to notice that high level of virtue which causes us to be so worthy.  The truth is we are used to getting what we want more often than not, and we tend to think something is amiss if we don’t.

This doesn’t help us sit well with the will of God.  The truth is that most of us gripe like crazy when the delicacies God gives us don’t fit with our mac and cheese dreams.  We are not accustomed to setting aside our own plans to take on the unexpected, uncertain and often unwelcome will of God.

To me, God’s will is okra; a plant I grew up despising (I dutifully hated all green vegetables).  If I had to eat it, it would be in the manner of consuming all abhorrent foods; chew carefully, avoid all contact with taste buds, then wash down with the nearest beverage.  But when I finally gave in and really tasted it, I learned to my amazement that it was pretty good.  A gift waiting to be received.

When God gives us a treat, we are foolish to say “no thank you.”  Much better if we learn to swallow the things we don’t care for.  We might not have thought we wanted it, but in the end we it may be delightful!

Blessed eating!

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a good alternative to pasta, potatoes, or rice. The cooked squash flesh shreds into threads like thin spaghetti or vermicelli, hence its name. On average, a spaghetti squash measures about 12 inches in length and about 6 inches in diameter. The squash should be an even light yellow color and firm with no bruises. Store whole at room temperature up to 3 weeks. Spaghetti squash is available year-round with peak season in fall.

Spaghetti squash has a very mild flavor, thus it is usually served with a sauce of some sort. It may also be enjoyed simply with salt and a bit of butter. Cooking the squash is very simple.

You will need:

-         1 spaghetti squash.

-         Large sharp knife.

-         Baking pan.

-         Oven.

-         Kitchen fork

• Prick the spaghetti squash all over with a skewer so it will not burst while baking.
• Place whole squash in a shallow baking pan.
• Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 1 hour.

• When cool enough to handle, cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise with a serrated knife.

• Scoop the seeds and fibrous strings from the center of the cooked spaghetti squash.

• Gently scrape the tines of a kitchen fork around the edge of the spaghetti squash to shred the pulp into strands.

• Cooked spaghetti squash is usually served with a sauce or gravy because the flesh is very bland in flavor.
• It may be served alone as a side dish with the addition of salt, pepper, and butter.