House Warming

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to host friends in my newest residence – the church parsonage! I moved in July, and it was wonderful to finally have all of the cardboard boxes broken down, the dishes unwrapped, the walls painted, and the artwork dressing the bare canvas of each room. And of course, it was wonderful to have everyone stop by for a visit!

One of the ways I show my love for people is by cooking for them. So if I ever cook for you, you know it’s a done deal: I love you. For the party, I focused on items that could be kept warm in a crockpot because the weather is finally getting to be crisp – it’s my favorite time of year. I made three dishes – hearty three-bean beef chili with all the fixings, curried coconut chickpeas with roasted brussels sprouts, and a way-too-delicious dark stout hot pub cheese that paired so well with a crusty loaf of grainy beer bread one of my friends brought over.

The curried chickpeas will always continue to be on my menu because they’re so satisfying, filling, and they freeze super well; it makes meal prep so easy. I can’t take all the credit for the recipe though; I learned how to make this delicious dish when I was working at a retreat center, but I’ve added a bit more complexity to it to cater to my taste, balance the flavors, and add a few more layers. Feel free to steal, adapt, and enjoy!

Curried Coconut Chickpeas (vegan, gluten-free)

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 medium onion, medium dice
1 tsp sea or kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP ginger, minced
2 TBSP yellow curry powder + more to taste
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
Juice of half a lime
One 13.66 can coconut milk
One 13.66 can coconut cream
Two 15.5 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

24 oz brussels sprouts
2 TBSP olive oil
1.5 tsp sea or kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions, salt, and pepper. Stir frequently until onions begin to take on golden brown color, about fifteen minutes. By slightly caramelizing onions, it will add depth and sweetness to the curry.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F for the brussels sprouts.
  3. Add garlic and ginger to onions and saute until fragrant, about three minutes, careful to not get too much color on the garlic – burned garlic is terribly bitter!
  4. Add curry powder to saucepan and stir. Toast for two minutes to “bloom” the spices.
  5. Add brown sugar and lime juice. Stir well, then add coconut milk and cream.
  6. Increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a light simmer – careful, coconut milk/cream can and will boil over!
  7. Continue simmering uncovered for twenty minutes to reduce mixture, which creates a creamier and richer curry.
  8. While curry is simmering, trim the brussels sprouts and halve. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in pre-heated oven for fifteen minutes.
  9. Add drained and rinsed chickpeas to curry mixture. Stir well and bring back to a simmer to heat chickpeas through.
  10. After fifteen minutes in oven, toss brussels, then place back in oven for five additional minutes or until the leaves are crispy and brown. They’ll look a little burnt, but they are DELICIOUS. Don’t throw those out!
  11. Last step: taste the curry and adjust to taste. Does it seem flat? Add more salt. Does it seem heavy? Add more lime juice. Does it seem bland? Add more curry. And if anything seems off-balance (i.e., too salty, too acidic, too spicy), try adding a bit more brown sugar. It’s all about dialing in the flavor profile – and the best way to learn is by tasting! Taste constantly and see what happens. (Check out Salt Fat Acid Heat for more info on developing a palate. I love it!)
  12. Okay, I lied, one last step: enjoy! Serve the curry over the roasted brussels in a deep bowl. Eat with a spoon and savor. You could also serve over a variety of grains: think rice, quinoa, pearled farro, barley – the sky’s the limit!

(For a lighter version, use two 13.66 cans coconut milk; I would stay away from lite coconut milk because they tend to add sweeteners, but you lose the flavor of the coconut.)

— Christy

Ep. 3.9 Climate, Spirit, and Remembering Who We Are

Christy and Eva talk with pastor and ecological/social justice activist and speaker Rev. Mariama White-Hammond. She shares about the spiritual nature of climate change and many of our contemporary issues, the need for finding joy in the natural world, and in discerning what is ours to do.

Delicious Eats

Enjoy the best of summer cherry tomatoes with this bruschetta recipe.

Clickable Links

More about Rev. Mariama White-Hammond: 

Her speaking engagements

Her racial bridge-building work in Boston:

Her Facebook page: 

https://www.facebook.com/revmariamawhitehammond/

Two excellent climate justice organizations we’re excited about (among so many!): Sunrisemovement.org and Boston-based Mothers Out Front (we mentioned our friend Yani Burgos, who is a former organizer for MOF)

Check out the article by Deepa Iyer we referenced about gifts & the social change ecosystem. What roles do you play?

Fantastic Reads 

Abraham Heschel’s The Sabbath

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Ep. 3.8: What We’re Reading This Summer

Chloe, Christy, and Eva chat about their latest reads.
http://cast.rocks/hosting/11899/3.8-What-We-re-Reading-This-Summer.mp3

Delicious Eats

Check out this post from The First Mess for three delightful takes on iced tea to sip while you read this summer. 

Clickable Links

An organization addressing childhood hunger by empowering families to make meals together @ http://cookingmatters.org/

One person who is confronting diet culture @ https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych

Want some inspiration for eating with loved ones? @ https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/

Fantastic Reads

Eva just read Eat to Love by Jenna Hollenstein

Chloe is working on Out of the House of Bread: Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines by Preston Yancey and pondering Little Free Food Pantries with thoughts from here and here

Christy is getting inspired about family meals because of this Washington Post article and some pretty cool statistics

When summer-

When summer
comes

tomatoes gather on the counter
and crown thick slabs of toast.

My feet walk across scorched cement
absorbing energy
I bend and reach for the long snake.
A conduit of life for the wilting leaves

I turn on the water and the hose spews forth
relief.

When summer
comes

my mind melts with the rest of the flowers.
My focus flees
my appetite goes on vacation.
I delight in cups of cold blueberries
and hot coffee:

trying to welcome the heat of the day and obey the heat of the clock.

When summer
comes

I am grateful for the sun’s nearness
and barbecued pizza divided under a smudge of stars
and midnight blue skies.
And orange or yellow butterflies.

And time is one of those ambiguous things,
a welcomed friend who carries with them the promise of seasons
a talker who won’t slow their speech, rushing on and on
a beloved who goes too soon
a guest who brings tortilla soup and some tomatoes from her raised bed

and who leaves before the night turns to morning.

-chloe

Ep. 3.7: Spoonfuls of Syrup

In this special intergenerational episode, Chloe explores the sacred role food plays to connect us with each other across the passing of time.  

Delicious Eats

Maple-Poached Eggs (reprinted from Casey Elsass’ recipe on Food52)

1 cup maple syrup

2 eggs

Toast and butter

In a small saucepan, bring maple syrup to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Crack the eggs into the syrup, kindly now! Let be for 3 minutes. Spoon some of the syrup over the eggs so they stay sweet. 
Place each poached egg into a small dish with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with some syrup. Eat!

Clickable Links

On honoring our cooking mentors, and a thing called “grandma cooking” @ https://food52.com/blog/20620-why-should-we-cook-like-a-grandma or https://www.amazon.com/Kitchens-Great-Midwest-Ryan-Stradal/dp/0143109413

Sometimes, recipes from our loved ones, or lack thereof, are tied with our pain @ https://www.huffpost.com/entry/grandma-cooking_b_2689305

Lots of people are learning from Paula Wolfort, who is using her relationship with food to confront dementia @ https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/good-money/for-cookbook-author-food-is-an-ally-against-dementia-20190114

How millennials are shaping food trends in the United States @ https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/9-ways-millennials-are-changing-the-way-we-eat/2018/02/20/6bb2fe60-11eb-11e8-8ea1-c1d91fcec3fe_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a95bed7e3978

If you’re feeling courageous and want to make that meat pie, start here! @ https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/christmas-tourtiere-recipe

Fantastic Reads

And just for fun, a list of food-related children’s books @ https://www.foodandwine.com/lifestyle/books/childrens-food-books

Reflections from My Garden Plot: Discovering Joy and Truth in Imperfection

I wrote this last year (June 2018) in my personal blog in the midst of midsummer gardening. Its lessons still hold true for me.

My husband Chris and I joined a community garden earlier this spring. We paid a fee that covers a year of “rent” for a plot at the garden of White Rock United Methodist Church, one of Dallas’ most community-oriented churches. After my varied experiences dabbling in urban farming, gardening on windowsills/patios, and gardening small plots or spaces with church communities, it feels right to finally have a plot of dirt that is solely my (and Chris’) responsibility to care for. Caring for this little slice of creation in concert with the sun, wind, rain, and occasional “dialogues” with insects who compete for food is a kind of messy spiritual practice for me. Sometimes it’s serene. Sometimes it’s hot and sweaty and frustrating. 

Like many folks I know who have been shaped by American cultural values about performing and achieving well, I have struggled with perfectionism since childhood. According to stories told by my mother, I spent many a moment in tearful fits of frustration when learning to tie my shoes. As an infant, I took two years–well beyond the average for most babies– to fully walk because I was afraid to fall or bump into things. Similar reactions happened when practicing for piano lessons in elementary and junior high school: if I couldn’t play something at least decently the second or third time after cracking open a new piece of music, I would often slam my hands on the piano and walk away in self-defeat. 

Rather than moments of anger at not getting something correct the first time–though this certainly still occurs, my perfectionism since childhood often manifests more in attempts to control a situation or even a person with unreasonable or not-so-compassionate standards, or kinds of “organizational modes” where I try and plan my way out of feeling anxious about the unknown. If I’m being honest, sometimes a very patient Chris becomes the person caught in the line of fire, in the midst of the rawness that marriage can bring forth in me as I navigate my own “stuff.”
Toward my own self, perfectionism looks like subtle internal messages of “not enough”: in my relationships with work; with “life maintenance” activities like cleaning, cooking, financial management, etc.; as I work on the part of me that is an activist, attempting to respond to what I see going on in the world; and most quietly but perhaps most sharply, in my relationship with my body.

Interestingly and paradoxically enough, I currently work as a chaplain in my day-to-day living, which requires my commitment to developing a posture of care that embraces a whole lot of imperfection.
I visit with people whose bodies are imperfect and whom are deeply shaped by imperfect decisions, relationships with family, and imperfect or, in many cases, downright unjust and neglectful structures of society that affect one’s ability to live a truly whole and healthy life. One of the hardest realities of my job, driven home during weekly reflection and seminar periods with my fellow chaplains-in-training, is knowing that not only can I not fix the circumstances of the patients I interact with, but it is not my job nor is it a very compassionate thing to even want to fix someone else. I recall a well-known quote from Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach: “The human soul does not want to be fixed, it wants simply to be seen and heard.” 

Circle back to the garden. In mid-March, Chris and I enthusiastically prepped the soil, purchased tomato, eggplant, pepper and other summer garden staple plants, and planted them alongside some of the seedlings we grew ourselves on our apartment patio. We watered and cared for these seedlings like babies, occasionally squealing with delight (ok, I did most of the squealing) as we watched them grow from buried seeds to sprouts between February and March. As the spring season carried on, we made weekly trips to the plot to weed, water, and watch the magic happen as the plants grew larger, spicy and sweet radishes were harvested and added to salads and tacos, strawberries began to pop out of their flowers, and the squash plants extended their green stems outward like yogis of the soil.

Since the recent onset of longer and hotter Texas summer days, however, the plot is starting to look a little less… put together. Squash bugs have chewed many of the leaves on the squash plants despite using diatomaceous earth, a natural pesticide, and attempting to squash (no cheesy garden pun intended) whatever eggs we could find. The tomato plants have crowded each other a bit. The radishes are done, and the strawberries have mostly fried from the sun’s intensity. It’s easy to feel like a crappy gardener when I stand next to it.

I see a dance we all dance, between different responses when caring for imperfect beings or imperfect natural spaces like the garden. On the one hand, it’s critically important to respond with care plans or actions that address and tend to the wounds that others and ourselves inevitably carry because of our varied circumstances. In the garden, if Chris and I we didn’t water or mulch; if we didn’t do our best to get rid of the bugs (or at least attempt some sort of a compromise), or didn’t help the plants grow in a direction that reaches the light, we would not be doing our part to support their flourishing. In my work in the hospital, If I didn’t advocate for patients who feel alienated by diagnoses they don’t understand, or who are chronically ill because they live in cities whose political and social leaders do not invest in health in the ways that they need to, or remind a doctor to inform a person of their loved one’s death with more gentleness, I would not be a good chaplain. I’d be an awful one, in fact. 

But I’m also increasingly aware that I must also balance my “interventions” with humility, with letting go, and without losing sight of the divine ability that created beings including folks in the hospital and gardens already contain within them. Despite all of my efforts to control what’s happening, the plants or the people are going to do what they do, in response to the sometimes natural and sometimes not so natural processes going on within and around them. I think we sometimes have to trust that they and we will use our God-given power and internal resources to bring about greater clarity, justice, hope, and even healing. Still, even as I share this, I must admit that I often find this a maddening truth to accept. There is so much in this world that merits–no, demands–our faithful response. And yet, we cannot do or be all of it. 

I think you see where I’m going with this. There may not be an exact parallel of “imperfect garden, imperfect self” that I’m attempting to draw on here, and perhaps some of you reading find yourself further down one side or the other of this metaphorical scale. But the more I care for this little piece of earth I’ve been entrusted and the longer I learn how to care for myself, those around me, those I dislike, and the world to which I am called to partner in transforming, the more I learn the necessity of a shift. This shift looks like a shift away from a striving for perfection that looks like something without flaw, to more of a kind of perfection that acknowledges and strives for all of creation to live into its flourishing and fullness in the midst of flaw. For me, it means loving myself through the tears of frustration; loving my body even as I try and care for it with more mindfulness; loving the patients I support even when I can’t fix the insurmountable hardships that they often have to cope with; and yes, the small acts of loving and caring for my squash plants, green beans, and strawberries even when their leaves are yellow, crispy, or covered with bugs. 

This dance we dance, swaying this way to respond with necessary urgent care and that way to step back, listen and trust– I pray that it transforms us. As it does its hard but necessary and revealing work on me and in my life, I bow in gratitude to the soil, the vegetables, the patients, and my fellow human sojourners who show me what it means to tell the truth, to love more deeply, and to strive to become the person I am created to be, however flawed.

Eva

P.S. To follow along with more of my blogs, check out englertel.blogspot.com.