Wednesday, December 21, 2011

God in Brussels Sprouts

In the Contemplative Service this Advent we have been reflecting on finding the Invisible in the Ordinary. When we discussed the topic in out planning meeting, we all felt excited, but over the past few weeks we've all found finding the Invisible in the Ordinary more difficult than anticipated. This kind of reflective work doesn't fit neatly into a 5 minute meditation or a 3 point sermon. It's not the kind of task that you ever feel is finished. It is far easier to remember past experiences and see God in them than to find Him in the present moment and in the mundane.

Last year I found the Invisible in the Ordinary on Christmas Eve over some brussels sprouts.

As I peeled them I was listening to the service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge. I was a service I used to listen to frequently with my Mom, and so as the boy soprano sang the opening strains of Once In Royal David's City I allowed myself to feel my grief once more.

I love to cook a large traditional English Christmas dinner and have friends over, but this year I am taking a road trip instead. I'm excited about travelling, but over the past few weeks I've found myself missing my usual Christmas. I haven't put up decorations at the house and I've felt almost completely bereft of 'Christmas Spirit'. I've given up listening to my Christmas Playlist, and even Handel's Messiah failed to work its usual magic.

It's as if a part of me is saying 'If I can't celebrate Christmas the way I've always done it.....then I'm not going to celebrate at all'

I wasn't really aware of that part of me until I found myself planning to cook brussels sprouts on Christmas Eve this year. I became aware that a part of me wants to recreate last year's experience again, that if I couldn't reconnect to the joy of Christmas maybe I could reconnect to the grief.

I've tried to spend some time wondering why I want to recreate experiences of Christmas past and I don't like the answer that's been rising into consciousness. I'm feeling disconnected to God at the moment. I believe that God is there, but somehow I feel lost in Him - like I'm wandering around a giant castle looking for Him but all I hear is my own voice echoing of the walls. I can see signs that the castle is occupied, but I can't find the occupant.

And so I've wanted to use Christmas traditions to quell the rising panic. I feel like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, trying to desperately hold onto tradition while his world shifts around him.

Melissa spoke last week about how she was learning Holy Spontaneity. I think what I'm learning this Christmas is Holy Flexibility. Learning to look for God in the new, the unexpected, the different. To teach myself that it is ok for Christmas to be different this year, and it is ok for my relationship with God to be different as well. Sometimes we need to let go of who God was, so we can see who God is trying to be...a Messiah in a Manger. A Homeless King. A Crucified Savior.

I may be wandering around a castle in the dark, but there is a light that shines in the darkness. I don't know how the Invisible will appear in the Ordinary this year, but that will not stop me looking.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pesto Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Roasted Brussel Sprouts

This recipe is incredible. Thanks to Ali over at Gimme Some Oven for creating something delectable.Even if you are not a brussel sprout fan I do urge you to try this. Roasting them brings out their nuttiness and cuts down the brassicaceous taste (ooh a $5 word which roughly means cabbagey lol)

1 lb fresh brussel sprouts, ends trimmed and any yellowed/browned outer leaves removed, then sliced in half
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1 lb (16 oz.) orecchiette (or any pasta)
4 chicken sausage links (I used spicy Italian), sliced into 1/4″ thick coins
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup pesto
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together brussel sprouts, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently stir until well-combined.

Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then spread the brussel sprouts on it evenly. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, stirring once partway through, or until they are crispy on the outside and cooked on the inside. (My batch of tiny sprouts only took about 12 minutes to cook.) Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until nearly-browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the sausage is browned.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. (I begin heating my water while preparing the brussel sprouts, and added the pasta to the boiling water just after beginning to cook the sausage.) Once the pasta is cooked, drain the water (reserving 1/4 cup pasta water), and then toss together the pasta, pesto, cooked sausage and garlic, and brussel sprouts. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if needed for extra moisture.

Serve warm, and sprinkle with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.

Ali suggests sprinkling toasted pine nuts over the top...I'm guessing that would be awesomeness. I'm also tempted to roast some button mushrooms the same time as the brussel sprouts because I add mushrooms to almost everything :) Another possibility would be to use Pancetta cubes instead of the chicken sausage!
Happy eating.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

An ancient Christmas Carol that we no longer sing....probably for good reason

Gotta love those old fashioned Christmas makes me long for a Dickensian Christmas with orphans freezing to death in the street!

On Christmas Day it happened so
Down in the meadow for to plough
As he was ploughing all on so fast
Up stepped sweet Jesus himself at last

Oh man, oh man, why do you plough
So hard upon Our Lord's birthday?
The farmer answered him with great speed,
For to plough this day I have got need.

His arms did quaver through and through,
His arms did quaver, he could not plough.
The ground did open and lose him in
Before he could repent of sin.

His wife and children's out of place,
His beasts and cattle almost lost.
His beasts and cattle they die away
For ploughing on Old Christmas day.
His beasts and cattle they die away
For ploughing on Our Lord's birthday.