Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

I can't decide if this is awesome or terrifying

It's definitely creative!!!

Advent Anticipation

This song really captures for me what Advent is all about, that hopeful waiting and longing for something to happen.

God being born as a baby?
Could it be? Yes it could.

Could be!
Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone'll jingle, door'll knock,
Open the latch!
Something's coming, don't know when, but it's soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It'll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Monday, November 28, 2011

Poetry - Knives by Jane Yolen

Love can be sharp
as the point of a knife,
as piercing as a sliver of glass,
My sisters did not know this.
They thought love was an old slipper:
pull it on and it fits.
They did not know this secret of the world:
the wrong word can kill.
It cost them their lives.

Princes understand the world,
they know the nuance of the tongue,
they are bred up in it.
A shoe is not a shoe:
it implies miles, it suggests length,
it measures and makes solid.
It wears and is worn.
Where there is one shoe, there must be a match.
Otherwise the kingdom limps along.

Glass is not glass
in the language of love:
it implies sight, it suggests depth,
it mirrors and makes real,
it is sought and is seen.
What is made of glass reflects the gazer.
A queen must be made of glass.

I spoke to the prince in that secret tongue,
the diplomacy of courting,
he using shoes, I using glass,
and all my sisters saw was a slipper,
too long at the heel,
too short at the toe.
What else could they use but a knife?
What else could he see but the declaration of war?

Princes understand the world,
they know the nuance of the tongue,
they are bred up in it.
In war as in life, they take no prisoners
And they always marry the other shoe.

Poetry - The Day the Saucers Came. Neil Gaiman

That day, the saucers landed. Hundreds of them, golden,
Silent, coming down from the sky like great snowflakes,
And the people of Earth stood and
stared as they descended,
Waiting, dry-mouthed, to find what waited inside for us
And none of us knowing if we would be here tomorrow
But you didn’t notice it because

That day, the day the saucers came, by some coincidence,
Was the day that the graves gave up their dead
And the zombies pushed up through soft earth
or erupted, shambling and dull-eyed, unstoppable,
Came towards us, the living, and we screamed and ran,
But you did not notice this because

On the saucer day, which was the zombie day, it was
Ragnarok also, and the television screens showed us
A ship built of dead-men’s nails, a serpent, a wolf,
All bigger than the mind could hold,
and the cameraman could
Not get far enough away, and then the Gods came out
But you did not see them coming because

On the saucer-zombie-battling-gods
day the floodgates broke
And each of us was engulfed by genies and sprites
Offering us wishes and wonders and eternities
And charm and cleverness and true
brave hearts and pots of gold
While giants feefofummed across
the land, and killer bees,
But you had no idea of any of this because

That day, the saucer day the zombie day
The Ragnarok and fairies day, the
day the great winds came
And snows, and the cities turned to crystal, the day
All plants died, plastics dissolved, the day the
Computers turned, the screens telling
us we would obey, the day
Angels, drunk and muddled, stumbled from the bars,
And all the bells of London were sounded, the day
Animals spoke to us in Assyrian, the Yeti day,
The fluttering capes and arrival of
the Time Machine day,
You didn’t notice any of this because
you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
not ever reading, not really, just
looking at your telephone,
wondering if I was going to call.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

I made this for lunch today and it was easy and awesome. Having done this I think almost any meatloaf recipe would work in the slow cooker as long as it follows the same proportions as this recipe. I have an Asian Meatloaf that I may have to adapt next.

Here's the meatloaf I made today.

1lb Sausage Meat (I used Jimmy Dean Hot)
1lb Ground beef ( I think mine was about 75%. Remember fat = flavor)
1 cup ketchup, divided.
1 (1.25oz) envelope dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used pre-bought Italian breadcrumbs)
1 Egg
Tin foil

In a large bowl, combine the sausage, beef, 1/2 cup of ketchup, soup mix, bread crumbs and egg. The only efficient way to do this is to stick your hands in and mix it together. If it bothers you that much get some surgical gloves.

When everything is well combined, shape into a loaf that will fit your slow cooker. Mine was slightly oval in shape.

Use scrunched up foil to make 3 or 4 cigar shapes that you will put inside your slow cooker on the bottom. Place the meatloaf on top of this. The foil lifts the meatloaf up out of the fat that drains from it as it cooks.

Cover and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours. The internal temperature needs to reach 160F for the meatloaf to have cooked through. I checked mine after 5 1/2 hours and it was fine.

Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of ketchup on top of the meatloaf 30 minutes before serving. Recover and continue to cook on low heat for 30 minutes.

It's a simple as that. I plan on trying other meatloaves in the future. If I get any really good ones I will post them here.

Happy eating.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanking God for empty barns.

Then Jesus told them this story: "The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grain and goods, and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well! You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!'
"Just then God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?'

"That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God." ~ Luke 12: 16-21

I've had this passage in my mind recently, and it's created some Thanksgiving tension for me. As I've reflected on what I have to be thankful for, there has been times where I've sounded suspiciously like the rich man in this parable. As I identify with him for his overabundance of blessings it makes God's declaration of Fool! all the more pointed.

I am blessed. I have an abundance. I don't worry what I'm going to eat (except for chasing exciting new recipes) and I have no fear about where I'm going to sleep tonight. Just having an abundance in the areas of Food and Shelter puts me way above many thousands in this world.

How do I hear this passage in a way that doesn't become guilt inducing? I've heard sermons on this text that generally parse out the text in this way: The abundance of the Rich Man's possessions are not the problem. The problem is his relationship with them. Possessions are fine and good so long as you identify God as the giver of all good gifts.

I wonder however. Am I letting myself of the hook and giving myself permission to own as much as I like. By reading the passage this way, a parable that Jesus uses to discuss greed (check out the context) has its teeth removed. I no longer feel the sting of God calling me a fool.

The more I look into God's heart for the poor the worse I feel.

Here are just a few verses that I wrestle with.

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Deut. 26:12. When you have finished paying the complete tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied.

Lev. 19:19ff. Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.

Prov. 31:8ff. [Commandment to kings.] Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Is. 58:66ff. Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Jer. 22:3. Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Luke 12:33. "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."

Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, "Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise."

Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Those verses are just a few of the ones that challenge me in my abundance. For even more passages concerning God and the poor click

I didn't intend this post to become a source of guilt about my relationship to the poor, though I must confess that is what I'm feeling at the moment. I found myself wondering what other points of connection this passage has for me and as I've prayed I've found myself drawn to the phrase '...produced a terrific crop'.

I've been asking myself "What terrific crop do I produce?" I can think of positive and negative crops. I can be judgemental, petty. I can hold a terrific grudge and an abundance of unforgiveness. I can also compose incredible melodies, speak into people's lives, create space for people to find God. I can be welcoming and hospitable. I can be stubborn and rude.

The message I hear at the moment is to fill my barns with God rather than self.

To do that, I need to do some emptying.

It's surprises me how tightly I want to hold onto bad crops. Giving up a grudge or a prejudice can be painful. A closed fist seems to offer more protection than an open hand.

It surprises me how tightly I want to hold onto the good crops. If I give away my abundance I become afraid that I may get trapped in poverty. I fear that there will never be another good harvest so I want to hoard what I have.

So here I am at Thanksgiving, trying to open the doors, move the crops and give thanks for empty barns, for it is in the act of emptying that I create space for God to fill.

Less of me, more of You.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Frosted Pumpkin Bars

These are so incredibly easy to make. I took them into work and got so many compliments I was almost embarrassed as it's just a throw together recipe.Make them, and feel the love :)

4 eggs (bring to room temperature)
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15oz can) pumpkin puree
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see note below)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

When I made this yesterday I didn't have any pumpkin pie spice. I used 1/2 teaspoon all spice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger instead.True pumpkin pie spice also has ground cloves in it but I didn't have any to hand. It tasted great, so relax and use what you have.

Make the pumpkin bars

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan by wiping it with the wrapper from the stick of butter.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin on medium speed until light and fluffy.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice (or substitute), salt and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Don't mix it to death!

Pour the batter into your greased pan and spread it evenly around. Bake for 25-30 minutes....until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. This will take longer than you think.

To make the frosting:

Using your (cleaned) stand mixer with the paddle attachment combine the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. slowly add the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and mix again.

Spread the icing on the cooled pumpkin bars.

Other things you could do to the recipe.

Sprinkle the frosting with powdered sugar or toasted chopped nuts would make it extra sweet (if you like it that way)

I also wondered about adding cinnamon, nutmeg and eggnog to the frosting. I haven't tried it yet, but I would guesstimate about 3 tablespoons eggnog,  1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg would be yummy.

You could also add about 2/3 cup of chopped nuts into the pumpkin batter before baking.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eggnog-Stuffed Cookies....attempt at your peril

I enjoy cooking. That should be apparent to any regular readers of my blog. I fiddle around in the kitchen the same way some people tinker with car engines. I firmly believe that home cooked food will taste better than something that is prepackaged, injected with preservatives and has sat on a grocery store shelf for too long. Some things just taste better fresh.

There are however certain foods that it is better to buy than make. Bagels and Doughnuts spring to mind. I've made bagels and they were ok, but the amount of effort expended was in my opinion too great for the quality of the product. Doughnuts scare me because of all that hot oil. I've only just gotten my stove completely repaired after the great Jalapeno Jelly Explosion of 2009.

I was lulled into a false sense of security by a recipe in this month's Food and Wine Magazine for Eggnog Stuffed Cookies. They sounded delicious, and I had some eggnog in the fridge. I thought this would be a great new cookie to do the rounds at all the Christmas Parties I attend (all 2 of them lol)

little did I know the terror that would ensue hidden within 1 deceptively simple instruction.


4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared eggnog
 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons dark molasses
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting.

Make the filling

1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer at low speed, beat the softened cream cheese with the confectioner's sugar, eggnog, nutmeg and cinnamon. Freeze the filling until firm, about 30 minutes.
(It doesn't look that appetizing, but trust me, it tastes great)

Make the cookie dough

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cornstarch, ground ginger, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

3. In a large bowl using the electric mixer, beat the softened butter with the the brown sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and molasses.

4. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until they are incorporated. Using a 2 tablespoon-size scoop, scoop 24 mounds of the dough onto the baking sheets and refrigerate until the dough is slightly firm, about 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 325F

6. Working with one baking sheet at a time, using floured hands, press a deep hollow in the center of each mound of dough and spoon in a level teaspoon of the cream cheese filling. Pinch the tops closed, creating a 'kiss'; be sure to seal any cracks or holes. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Refrigerate until the cookies are firm, about 15 minutes.

(This is where all hell broke loose!)
(My 2 dozen cookies somehow became 19)

7. Bake the cookies in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for about 30 minutes, until they are golden and the tops lightly cracked; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway though baking.

8. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool completely. Dust the tops of the cookies with confectioner's sugar before serving.

Makes 2 dozen cookies....well that's the theory :(

The problem as you can see was step 6. After the dough had sat in the fridge for 30 minutes it was too cold to mold and cracked when I tried to make the deep hollow. When the dough warmed up and softened it was too soft and pliable to shape with any ease. I eventually developed a bit of a technique, but I felt like I was back in high school art class trying to shape a very soft lump of clay. It is not easy to encase a soft filling inside a soft dough.

One confession that may have added to the difficulty. When I went to my pantry I discovered that I didn't have any dark brown sugar, only light brown. A quick search on the Internet said that you could substitute light for dark if you added some molasses - 1 tablespoon of molasses per cup of light brown sugar. I therefor added an extra teaspoon of molasses to the recipe, but I did increase the flour just slightly to balance the extra teaspoon of liquid.

How do they taste? In the cookies I baked the ratio of cookie to filling was not great enough. The cookie tasted great but felt too dry. It needs enough filling in each cookie to be in every bite, but as the dough is so fragile this seems almost impossible to do without lots of practice...

...and I have far more important things to do than practice stuffing cookies.