Every season of the year is filled with opportunities to gather with friends and share a meal. This is true across the world. Summer is filled with opportunities to gather and barbecue. The fourth of July, in the US, is the most popular holiday for barbecuing followed by Memorial and Labor days. Barbecuing is one of those ways of cooking which transcend social and political classes. There is a history of barbecuing at the White House for example, since Thomas Jefferson. Each President has had their own favorite. For example, Lyndon B Johnson was a lover of Texas style barbecued ribs. The most popular flavors of barbecue sauce are hickory, mesquite, honey and spicy hot.
While making plans for these holiday get togethers one is probably thinking most about who to invite, what proteins to make and what beverage and vegetable to pair with them. Rarely, do we think about how spiritually rich these gatherings are. In South Africa, for example, these gatherings are braai and they are more then just a chance to gather and barbecue, they are just to celebrate cultural and spiritual traditions. Gathering with others is about more than cooking and creating memories. It is about honoring the feast, the friends, and the ways foods and wines pair up with each other. It’s about understanding how these pairings brings out the best in conversation and camaraderie for those gathered. There is a richening of community when we gather and share a meal together. Read More
I have yet to meet someone who does not like tacos. Some people prefer corn vs flour tortillas. Others prefer crunchy over soft shells. Some prefer beef, others steak, chicken, fish, shrimp, or some other protein. It is not about whether or not people like tacos, but how they construct them
When we think about tacos, we think about something to eat. My guess is nobody thinks about it the way it was first used in the 18th century when it was the paper which was wrapped around gunpowder for small explosives. It wasn’t about an explosion of tastes in one’s mouth, but about helping to create explosions in the mines.
As I have been thinking about tacos, I have come to realize that tacos are a great way of thinking about people’s spiritual journeys. We are all on one, even if one sees themselves as their Higher Power. We are all on a journey, it is just about how we construct one. Some need the harder structure that comes with some religious traditions while others like the flexibility that comes with other spiritual beliefs. Read More
It’s National Ice Cream Sandwich Day! How could I not possibly write about Ice Cream Sandwiches. When I think about them so many memories come to mind. One of them is a conversation with a friend about the flavor of ice cream in an ice cream sandwich. I told her that I thought it really did not matter what flavor ice cream or “sandwich” it was, as long as the flavors went together and it tasted good. She insisted that the ice cream had to be vanilla and the “sandwich” chocolate. As I sit and think about this again, I have come to realize that our views on ice cream sandwiches and our views on spirituality are similar.
For her, despite the diversity of translations of the Bible, and there are numerous, she will only read the King James Version of the bible. She will only read out of the King James Version. A few years ago, someone she knew gave her a new Bible. Initially, she was excited. However, then she realized it was not the King James Version, but the NEW King James Version. It was not something she could read. It was not her vanilla ice cream in a chocolate sandwich.
I on the other hand, am not so concerned with where the lessons and inspiration come from, rather being open to receiving them and understanding why they are coming to me at this moment in my life. The recipes I am sharing today are for those of you who are like my friend, those who are a little more like me, and those who are somewhere in between. Happy National Ice Cream Sandwich Day!
Here are the three Ice Cream Sandwich recipes you can find on my Pampered Chef website Read More
Although not my wife’s favorite, one of my favorite foods is seafood. I have been intentionally not buying farm fed fish and seafood, choosing wild instead. When I realized that today is World Ocean Day, I found myself being grateful for the intentional choices I have been making about my own purchases of fish and seafood. Normally, when I am at the seafood market, I hear people asking about how much it costs and complaining about the prices. Sometimes I hear them ask about how to prepare something, but usually it is about the price.
One might wonder what this has to do with spirituality. For me, our approach to the environment and the sustainability of those that live in the ocean is part of my responsibility as a human and spiritual being. Like so many other aspects of our environment we tend to consume materials and foods as if there is an unending supply. In doing some research, I learned that we are consuming more seafood and fish then our oceans can produce on their own. To compensate for the demand, companies have created fish farms. These fish farms have a negative impact on the environment. Overfishing can mean that some of the seafood and fish we are able to catch today may cease to exist. Seafood Watch has come out with a list of sustainable fish Read More
Several months ago, I wrote about the basic black dress in cooking. The notion came from a makeover show, which Tim Gunn was co-hosting at the time. He would often say every woman should have a basic black dress in her wardrobe. He talked about how you start with the basic black dress and then accessorize it to make it personal. Thus far, I have applied this to vegetable stock, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cheeseburgers. Last night, I was craving some comfort food and for me that was egg rolls.
I love egg rolls and have eaten them most of my life. In fact, while I was writing my doctoral comprehensive exams, I think we bought the local restaurant out of egg rolls I ate so many. Egg rolls are one of the few foods that taste good to me when I am going through a stressful time. So egg rolls are what I requested when our housemate was elected to go to Wegman’s and get each of us something “deserty” or “comforting.” What he brought me were egg rolls, but nothing like what I have ever had before. Read More
This morning I was reading a blog called Loving Food, Fashion, and Life. Her entry was all about cheeseburgers and as that was what I had planned to make for dinner, it caught my attention. Her opening line was “If you’ve never had a plumpalicious burger stuffed with cheese in the middle that clearly oozes out cheesiness with every bite, well—you’re missing out on a good portion of life.” As I was imagining this burger, it dawned on me that the cheeseburger is one of those basic black dresses (or suits) that I have talked about as it applies to broth and grilled cheese sandwiches.
There really are only two basic essentials to a cheeseburger: the burger and the cheese. The bun, in some respects, has become just one more accessory to the cheeseburger. One would think that there is not much to making a burger, but the blend of meats varies from person to person and restaurant to restaurant. They do not even need to be made with beef. One could use ground turkey, chicken, lamb, or a mixture of vegetables, beans, and grains to make a vegi burger. I have made some burgers out of baked beans and oatmeal. I have also taken other meats and added them into my ground meat. For example, I have mixed chorizo or Italian sausage or bacon into my burger patties before cooking them. Read More
This morning while I was posting my thought for the day to my blog on WordPress, I came across this picture about self-acceptance. While the picture has nothing to do with food, other than counting calories or eating vegan, it has do with something important to one’s approach to cooking, food, and spirituality – YOU. After all, as the sign says we are all different. Our relationships with ourselves, Spirit, and food is not about others, but about us.
As I thought about this, I realized that one could re-create this about food. Read More
X was a challenge for me the last time I was blogging my way through the alphabet and this time was no exception. I had originally thought xanthum gum, which is normally thought of as a gluten free additive which can be used as a thickener. However, it was not resonating with my spirit and since that is what this blog is all about, it was just not going to happen. Then, in my research on X foods, I stumbled upon Xavier Suppe, which is Italian for Xavier Soup. It is a traditional Italian recipe, normally made in December for the Feast of Saint Xavier. It is a classic chicken and vegetable soup with flour and baked Parmesan cheese dumplings served garnished with parsley and chervil. Perhaps that is why it resonated with my spirit; it looks like and reminds me of my mother’s chicken soup with matzo balls, Italian style.
Learning about this soup, made me want to know something about the person it was named after Frances Xavier was a Roman Catholic missionary and one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, more commonly referred to as Jesuits. Read More
There are so many amazing foods that begin with O I could have chosen from this week. There is oat bran, oils, olives, okra, onion rings, onions, oranges, orange juice, omelet, oatmeal, octopus, oysters, orecchiette, and oregano. I could have even gone with some O brands such as Oreo’s or Olive Garden. Any of which would have been interesting, but it was a recent viewing of a commercial for Silk Almond Milk and a conversation with my wife Zoe a few weeks ago about trying turkey pastrami, which reminded me of how often we are not open to new experiences in our lives and in our food. Read More
As many of you know, we had to travel the last few days to attend a funeral. Doing so kept me out of the physical kitchen for a few days. So coming back last night, I had a new appreciation for my kitchen. At the same time, however, it made me think about what a kitchen is. By definition, a kitchen is “a room or area where food is prepared and cooked.” We tend to think about a kitchen as containing certain things like a sink, stove, and refrigerator. However, the other night I gathered with Zoe’s family in the sitting area of the hotel where we brought down leftovers from the home going celebration and reheated them in the microwave and shared them at what became our “kitchen table”. It reminded me that not every culture thinks about kitchens in the same way or has in the past. Read More
Recently someone asked me how I could possibly create theological and spiritual connections to the most random of ingredients. The secret, I shared came from a unique theological idea I became exposed to in seminary in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. In one of his books, he argued that everything in the physical world can convey a higher spiritual meaning. Swedenborg called this similitude between physical and spiritual realities correspondences.
It is this notion of correspondences, which has helped me to see the spiritual lessons behind foods such as waffles, spaghetti, artichokes, basil, cheese, chili powder, dates, French fries, hot dogs, and this week jellybeans. Read More
After having spent most of the day in the kitchen cooking in preparation for our Thanksgiving Open House Pot Luck Dinner, reading about what my Jewish friends were eating in celebration of Hanukah, and all the amazing dishes my friends were making for their Thanksgiving feast this year, it was easy to think about eating. Each year, I tell myself I am only going to make the two things I commit to making, but that is never true. I always find it important to ensure I have made at least one thing that each member of my household, which this year is three, really loves on the table. So for Zoe it was my baked ham (thank you Ina Garten) and my macaroni and cheese. For Sam, it was pumpkin cheesecake, although it could have been anything pumpkin. For me, it was my two cranberry relish and stuffing. For my guests, I am making my twice a year holiday garlic smashed potatoes with mascarpone cheese. Ready to eat yet? LOL Read More
How do I love basil? Let me count the ways? I could talk about how I love it in a fresh pesto sauce with some extra virgin olive oil, toasted pine nuts, and parmesan cheese and tossed with pasta. I could talk about how I love basil when mixed with freshly sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and then sprinkled with olive oil or a balsamic vinaigrette. The list of ways that I enjoy basil could be never ending, but outside of the more common Italian sweet basil and the spicier Thai basil, until recently I was not aware that there were over 60 different types of basil.
Basil has been highly regarded in a number of faith traditions throughout time. The Greek name for Basil means “King” While there is no direct mention of basil in Judeo-Christian writings, it has been reported that it is one of the plants that was found at the site of Christ’s crucifixion There are those who have argued it is also associated “with St Basil, whose feast day is celebrated in Greece on January 1 by having basil blessed at church.” Read More
A while back I talked about a
basic vegetable stock and compared it to the basic black dress Tim Gunn
said she be in every woman’s wardrobe, well at least for those who wear dresses.
My friends have told me that the basic dark pants and jacket is the equivalent
for men. This basic black dress, or dark suit, theory applies to food and our
spiritual lives as well. Any thing one creates has its basic elements and then
it is accessorized. The secret is to identify the essentials, then accessorize
So for example, one can take your classic grilled cheese
sandwich. This is a dish that just about anyone, who has not grown up vegan,
has experienced. With the development of vegan cheese products, even my vegan
friends, can now experience grilled cheese. The basic grilled cheese sandwich
has three essentials: bread, cheese, butter. Together, they are the basic black
dress. At its most basic form, the grilled cheese sandwich is American cheese on
white bread. There seem to be two different techniques for the butter. Some
melt the butter in the pan and then put the sandwich in the butter to toast the
bread; others spread the softened butter evenly on the bread and then put it in
a hot pan.
This week my blog is slightly different then usual. L T Bentley invited me to be part of this blog hopping journey called The Next Big Thing. I think the purpose is to help us discover the next great book that we absolute have to read or an author whose works might just resonate with our spirits. I had never heard of her work before, but given that I am a Gemini, I am looking forward to reading something outside of the norm for me, her book Shattered Gemini, is a psychological murder mystery. Who knows her work might be the Next Big Thing, or perhaps mine is. Who knows?
I have never written fiction that is unless you think about my life as a piece of fiction, which is a work in process. In my life story, then I am the main character and everyone else in my life are the supporting cast of characters. Read More
Recently, someone told me they were surprised that I had a sense of humor. Hmm. I guess they have not been around me very much. There are times in my life I am quite serious and intellectual. Then there are times in my life I am just “downright stupid.” There have been those days when I wake up singing a children’s song like If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands or I love pumpernickel, pumpernickel bread. Those years of listening to Barney songs are embedded deep in my memory. When I laugh, I feel myself open up and it allows me a moment to get out of my head and to get creative.
Some of my most inspirational moments have happened when I just did not care or when I was not concerned about getting it right. Tonight was one of them. I had been having this kind of mental block and not feeling especially creative. The only thing I was craving was pasta. Hmm, perhaps that was in part because Tuesday was National Pasta Day. Read More
Many people I know had a food they did not like as children. However, over time their appreciation for, and experience of, that food changed over time. For me, this was especially true of pasta sauces. As a child, my favorite pasta preparations were boxed macaroni and cheese and Spaghettio’s. The latter being my favorite primarily because of the sauce. It tasted so much better then my mom’s sauce. She made hers by mixing catsup, cream cheese, and oregano together. I was in my teens when I first experienced I home made pasta sauce which exceeded my expectations and changed my relationship with pasta and with Spaghettio’s, which no longer were acceptable to my palette. Read More
So many of the chefs I have watched on television or read about in their cookbooks have spent a good part of their lives traveling around the world. My niece has just finished spending several months studying in Italy and after a brief reunion with my brother and her siblings will be traveling back to Switzerland. She has had an opportunity to travel to various regions and tasted some amazing food. She has been exposed to sauces, soups, spices, and ingredients I probably have never heard of. Read More
When I was in seminary, which now seems a lifetime ago, in one of my preaching classes we were assigned to take a scripture which involved violence against women and develop a sermon on it in a way which was honest, but empowering. The result was a sermon I wrote called Take Back the Night, which was what I envisioned Tamar would have said if Tamar had been invited to speak at a Take Back the Night March.
One of the things I learned while I was researching this scripture was about the name Tamar. Tamar means date palm. In biblical times, people’s names were a prophesy about their lives. Date palm might not seem like much of a prophesy, but it is. You see the date palm is said to be the oldest cultivated tree. For the people of her area, the date palm held particular symbolic significance. Read More
Well we are now week 4 in Zoë’s chemotherapy treatments and the two major symptoms she has experienced are fatigue and loss of taste. It seems like just about everything tastes like cardboard. Her go to breakfast, bagels, and cream cheese, tasted like cardboard. My vegetarian lasagna tasted like cardboard. The ginger ale that I made from scratch just tasted like bubbles. The few things that tasted good to her were ice cream and corn tortillas. Not the most nutritious of dishes. Nothing but the ice cream was sweet enough. Everything but the corn tortillas tasted like cardboard. The reality is that none of us wants to eat cardboard.
It has been frustrating trying to find things for her to eat that did not taste like cardboard. So how do you transform things from cardboard to tasty when you have no taste buds? Easy. Salt. You put salt on everything. Bagels and cream cheese – no problem. Read More