Monday, August 30, 2010

Manicotti Madness

I've been cooking Manicotti a lot recently...and thanks to America's Test Kitchen it's not as difficult as I imagined. The hardest thing was always stuffing the tubes with filling, any technique I tried (spoons, piping bags, plastic bags with the corners cut off) always failed and ended in a mess. America's Test Kitchen to the rescue!

Lightly saute some garlic and red pepper flakes in some olive oil. (you can also add 1lb Italian sausage and brown it too if you so desire) Add 2 28oz cans of chopped tomatoes that you have blitzed in the food processor and a little salt and then lightly simmer for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes is up, take the sauce off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil.

Meanwhile put 16 no boil lasagna noodles (preferably Barilla) in an 9x13 pan and soak them in boiling water for 5 minutes. I recommend spraying each layer of noodles lightly with Pam to stop them sticking.
After 5 minutes, take them out and spread them around the kitchen on paper towels to drain. Having lots of counter space really helps here :)

The filling is 3 cups ricotta, 4 oz grated Parmesan, 8 oz shredded mozzarella, 2 lightly beaten eggs, a little black pepper, salt, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons of chopped basil all mixed well together.

Taking one noodle at a time, cover 3/4 of the noodle with about 1/4 cup of filling and then roll up from the filled edge up. Here is where a picture says a thousand words...

Partially rolled up...

The uncovered noodle will seal against the rest to hold it closed. Place 1 1/2 cups of sauce in the bottom of the pan and then put in the 16 Manicotti.

Cover all of the Manicotti with the remaining sauce, making sure all of the pasta is covered.

Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and then sprinkle 1 cup of Parmesan over the top and then place under the broiler until brown (about 4-6 minutes).

Cool for about 15 minutes so nobody burns themselves, and then serve.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'd seen the anonymous quote many times before, but to see it on a chuch billboard really irritated me for some reason -

"Feeling far away from God? Guess who moved?"

What I read was 'You've only got yourself to blame if God is distant, he didn't go anywhere, you did. Look at how bad and unfaithful you are. If you really loved God then you'd feel close to Him. If you were more obedient then you'd be able to practice the presence of God all the time.'

It was at this point that my mental rant stopped as a single verse came to mind.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus' obedience to the Father didn't guarentee warm fuzzy feelings of God's nearness. I've written before about the tendency to label a particular emotional experience as 'The Presence of God' and to use that emotion as a filter through which we see all experiences. If the experience replicates that emotion then God was present, if it didn't then God was distant.

But there is another error here, though maybe to be kind it's more the inadequacy of language. There is a trio of Seminary words used to describe God. - Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient. Present Everywhere, All Powerful, and All Knowing. But if God is present everywhere, how can I ever be distant from him?

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

If God is everywhere as the psalmist says then I cannot have moved away from Him. The language of distance between us and God pervades church culture, I find myself using it. I talk of 'Drawing close to God' and 'wanting to be where God is' even though it's like saying I want to draw closer to the atmosphere.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thoughts on Doubt

Mark 6:6a - and he was amazed at their unbelief

Does my unbelief amaze you?
Do I know too much about you to trust you anymore?
Oh I love you deeply, but that doesn't mean I'll let my barriers down.
We've been through too much together you and I,
And I have the scars to show for it.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

I've swallowed enough shame for this lifetime.
I've begged, pleased, asked, promised, cajoled...all to no avail.
The song says 'Jesus blood never failed me yet'
My response is - 'Ha! Keep trying, it will.'


Certainty and Belief are not synonyms
Belief and Doubt are not antonyms


I want a Liturgy of Doubt
One that rails against absolutes,
That raises the eternal 'If/Then' to heaven.

"If you are good, then why......."
"If you love me, then how come....."

But life isn't as logical and linear as 'If A then B'.
Maybe the doubt I want vocalized in the liturgy needs to creep into my arguments.
Does A always lead to B?

Has Certainty become and idol and Doubt a pariah?
Has knowing Good and Evil become more important than walking with God in the cool of the evening?

'Step away from that fruit, and no one gets hurt.'

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Resistance maybe futile, but it does cause delays.

I have a lot of blog posts rolling around in my mind right now. Lots of things happen and I think 'I need to write about that' but for some reason I don't.

  • I want to blog about the Prodigal Son. How all of us need to leave our false ideas of 'Father' so that we can actually discover the truth of who he is. I want to write about the older son, how his misconceptions of 'Father' are also shattered when his brother comes home.

  • I want to write about the Bernstein Mass, a piece of music I have been listening to a lot over this past weekend. How the climax when the Priest throws down the communion chalice and the monstrance, dances on the altar and rips the vestments has captured my attention. Of how faith is restored with a simple song of praise.

  • I plan to write about 'Pillars of the Earth' the mini-series. Of how it differs from the book and of the tension it causes within me and how I'm trying to speculate abut why they made the changes.

  • I should write about the surprise of making Manicotti, of improvising fillings for stuffed peppers, of attempting to merge two disparate recipes together and create something new.

  • I intend to go through my boardgame shelves and make a blog post of the games that I hope will get to the table and be played again before the year is through. I need to start researching what games I hope to try at the Convention in November.

  • I hope to write about the music I'm currently composing. Of trying different techniques in writing and arranging. In trying to find a new sound that is not just a repeat of what I have written before.

For some reason I have resistance to all of this. If somehow putting these topics down in words will somehow pin them like a butterfly pinned to a board. I'm not ready for them to be fixed yet, my ideas are still flitting around, fluttering through my head...

...and in the meantime my blog stands quietly waiting, longing for an entry. I fill it with snippets, an media clip here, a quote there, a quick picture, all things that capture my interest, but nothing that is indicative of who I am at a deep level. I'm ok with this most days, I've not had complaints of my lack of blogging, it's not like I am hounded by readers desperate to hang on my every word.

I have written, and I will write, but for now I'm ok sitting with all that is going on, with no need to lock it into place with words.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

One Reason why I love Sondheim

When most people talk about the genius of Sondheim, they start by talking about his lyric writing. Yes his lyrics are superb, but so are his melodies and harmonies. I think they are so well constructed that people often miss their elegance. Anthony Tommasini does a fantastic job of showing just three examples of brilliance in different Sondheim scores, things that if you are not a musician you may miss, and if you are not a composer you may not understand the complexity and genius.

This is why, unlike other musical soundtracks, I rarely tire of listening to Stephen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quote of the Day

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin

Saturday, August 07, 2010

July Games Played

I've been travelling a lot so I haven't had a chance to post, but here is July's Games.

I played 23 games of 18 different games.

The highlights?

Well Dominion was top with 4 plays. It was last years top game, and it is showing no sign of slowing down as yet. It's turning into an interesting battle for the top spot. Hive still has the lead for the year with 18 plays, but it hasn't hit the table in the last 2 months. Werewolf has 17 plays, and Dominion has 15 - anyone could be the end of year winner, or could something else emerge?

Power Grid - Factory Manager had 2 plays this past month as did Sticheln which is fast becoming one of my favorite trick taking games.

The rest of the month was taken up with single plays of various games, some old faithfuls and some new games. The latter category included first plays of Castle Keep, Ghost Stories, Homesteaders, Im Reich der Jadegottin, Nuns on the Run and Tarantel Tango.

I seem to have a habit of playing many new games and not so many repeats, maybe I'll push for some older faithfuls to reappear on the table.