Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I have neglected this blog for so long. I've just been so impossibly busy. And I'm so tired of all the stuff and deadlines that I've been dealing with that I'm not going to explain it. I would like to defend myself and say that I have, however, been doing some cooking. It is with great pleasure that I begin filling you in on my culinary adventures here today! (at 4 am. sleep eludes me.)

Tonight's dinner was a tremendous success (if I do say so myself!): my very own lasagna recipe! Well, there may be another one like it out there somewhere. But I haven't seen it, and swear this was something I came up with on my own. It is very, very easy, but somewhat time-consuming. It's also pretty healthy, as lasagnas go. And so very, very tasty. The roasted vegetables and fresh herbs give this such a fresh and complex taste. I hope you'll try it! The one suggestion I got from my tasters this evening was that it could use more garlic. I'm printing the recipe below as I used it, but you might want to up the garlic quantity. I think I will next time (and oh yes, there will be a next time).

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
makes a 9x13 roasting pan

Roasted Vegetables
2 medium zucchini
1 italian eggplant
1 summer squash
2 bell peppers (I used yellow, but any color would work)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Chicken Mixture
1 lb ground chicken breast
3 cups crushed tomatoes, drained (I actually strained mine to remove as much liquid as possible)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
one medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 tsp oregano
Black pepper to taste

Ricotta mixture
15 oz lowfat ricotta cheese
16 oz part-skim shredded italian cheese blend
2 eggs
1 cup fresh chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp sugar

1 bunch fresh basil
16 oz part-skim shredded mozzerella
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles (I like barilla)
Cooking spray (I like Pam)

Roasted Vegetable Layer
slice zucchini, eggplant and yellow squash into 1/4 inch rounds. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Pierce bell peppers with a fork or knife and rub with olive oil. Lay the vegetables out on the sheet and toss with 1-2 tbsb of olive oil. Put in the oven to roast at 400 F until very soft (about 40 minutes). After removing them from the oven, put the sliced veggies in a bowl. Let the peppers cool a bit, then peel, de-seed and de-rib them. Chop them up and add to the rest of the veggies.

Chicken Layer
In a large, deep skillet, saute chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat until it begins to soften. Then add the chicken, taking care to break up any large chunks. Add the garlic and tomatoes. After a minute or two, pour in the wine and as it starts to cook down, add the oregano and black pepper if desired. When the meat is just done, remove from heat and pour contents of skillet into bowl.

Tomato Sauce
In a skillet or saucepan over medium heat, mix together crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, sugar and oregano. Let it cook down just a tad and remove from heat.

Cheese Layer
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add ricotta and italian cheese blend and mix until well-blended. Finally, add the parley and stir just until blended.

Wash and tear basil leaves from stem


Spray a 9x13 roasting pan with cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Then begin layering:

1. lasagna noodles (directions should be on box)
tomato sauce
1/2 of the chicken mixture
1/2 of the fresh basil
1/2 of the roasted vegetables
1/3 of the ricotta mixture

2. lasagna noodles
1/3 of the ricotta mixture
2/3 cup shredded mozzerella

3. lasagna noodles
tomato sauce
Remaining chicken mixture
Remaining basil
Remaining roasted vegetables
Remaining ricotta mixture

4. lasagna noodles
Remaining tomato sauce
Remaining shredded mozzerella (should be 1 1/3 cups)

I like to let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before baking in order to let the flavors blend. From the refrigerator, it should be baked in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes covered in foil, and about 10 minutes without in order to let the cheese brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

banana yogurt bread

I feel so fabulously Susie Homemaker-ish when I bake. I love the way it smells and it makes me want to put on pearls and vacuum. Today as the banana bread baked, I scoured the kitchen from top to bottom and cleaned one of the bathrooms. Baking is also an EXCELLENT way to procrastinate when I need to practice.

Because the last recipe I posted involved a cream sauce (well worth trying, though!), I felt the need to redeem myself by posting this much healthier recipe. This is based on a great banana bread recipe I found some time ago on the Food Network website. As a general rule, I am not a fan of Emeril Lagasse, but this banana bread recipe of his is really fantastic (original recipe here). I made it several months ago and loved it, so today when I found myself with a few overripe bananas, I decided to make it again. This time I changed a few things in an attempt to be somewhat healthier and in the name of creativity. Most significantly, I omitted all the butter! You can check out the original if you want, and I'm writing my adapted version below.


Slightly more than 1/2 cup lowfat yogurt (I love Activia)
3 overripe bananas
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
~1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease a 9 1/4 by 5 1/4 by 2 1/2- inch loaf pan (I like Baker's Joy)

In a mixing bowl, beat yogurt, bananas, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract until well blended. Add the sugar and beat thoroughly, followed by the baking powder, baking soda and salt. When the batter is well-beaten and thoroughly blended, add the flour and mix just until the flour is smoothly incorporated (over-beating flour makes it tough). Fold in nuts.

Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake until lightly browned a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean, or about an hour. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  • I felt like my bread got too brown on the edges and top before it cooked through. Suggestions?
  • Also, do you think this would work with whole wheat flour?
  • If you make this, please give me feedback about the texture. It was tasty, but I am wondering if it's a little chewy.
  • I liked this a lot, but I'm wondering how it could be improved (other than using butter!) Please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chicken, Spinach and Mushrooms in Spiced Cream Sauce

Today is my mother's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!). Last night I had a little dinner for her, and my father and two close family friends came over as well. I made a bean and potato soup to start and dessert crepes to finish, both of which were a hit. But the star of the evening was this chicken dish.

I made this one up as I went along. And normally I run from cream sauce because I just feel so guilty if I put cream on anything. But this was so easy and so tasty that I'm glad I was willing to experiment with it. (Truth be told, I was planning to only have the chicken and veggies but when I put it in the pan, they just seemed so boring and un-birthdayish that I decided to try a cream sauce.) I won't make it frequently, but it will definitely have encore appearances. I'm thankful that I made mental notes as I cooked, because otherwise I probably wouldn't remember how I did this. Though, as always, I didn't really measure anything so the quantities listed below are lose approximations. So, without further ado, here is my new recipe, of which I am very proud.

This is not such an appetizing picture-- sorry! I forgot to take a picture before we served our plates. But in the casserole dish with the golden cheese on top, it is actually aesthetically pleasing as well.

Ingredients (serves 5-6)
12 chicken tenderloins (I used the frozen packaged Tyson tenderloins)
1 pint sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 lb fresh baby spinach
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp (?) cornstarch
2 tsp (?) nutmeg
~1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (enough to top the dish)
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, bring wine to a simmer and add the chicken tenderloins and a little salt. Cook until the wine reduces slightly and the chicken is almost done (still a little pink in the middle). Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan and cook until mushrooms have softened and darkened slightly. Then begin cooking the spinach in batches, adding more as the previous handful wilts and cooks down. When all the spinach is cooked in the pan, remove from heat and drain most of the liquid. In a casserole dish, spread out the spinach and mushroom mixture with the chicken tenderloins.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the cream. When the mixture is just scalding, add a heaping tsp (or 2 tsp) of cornstarch and beat well with a whisk until it dissolves. Stir gently until mixture thickens. Add nutmeg to taste (I think I used about 2 tsp). Pour cream sauce over the chicken and vegetables in the casserole dish and top with grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Bake at 350 degrees F until chicken is cooked through and cheese is golden, about 25 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes and serve.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

this conversation actually happened

Me (talking to my mother about someone I think very highly of): ...and he's just SO KIND.  And thoughtful and wise... and he's just SO KIND.  So kind.

Mom: Hmmm... you know, I really don't see you with someone who's VERY kind. (pauses to reflect for a moment.)  No, I don't see it.

uhhhh..... I'm still working that one out.

I'm back!

What a wonderful summer I had. In the (hopefully) near future I should have lots of recipes to share because, as is my custom, I made sure to get recipes and tips for the new foods I tried on my travels. I was awed and blessed by the outpouring of hospitality I received everywhere I went, inspired and encouraged artistically and spiritually, and refreshed and recharged by relaxing times with friends in beautiful places. I am perhaps most thankful for the intensity with which I felt God's presence with me and love for me as I went about my work and play. I was constantly reminded of His sovereignty and power which is so beautifully partnered with His perfect love and mercy. But the element of God's character that struck me most during the past months was generosity. God is GENEROUS, friends. So generous. Indescribably, unfathomably generous.

Shortly before embarking on my travels I repurchased the Book of Common Prayer (having given my old copy to a friend last year). I love liturgy, and find the prayers and readings that go along with the assigned daily Scripture passages incredibly rich and illuminating. I also find the structure of the morning and evening prayer times helpful as, to be honest, I often have trouble staying focussed and/or moving beyond my immediate felt needs. I took the BCP with me on my trip, and loved using it for morning and evening devotions (though I usually didn't have enough time in the morning to go through everything and almost always passed out at night before I could finish!). Now that I'm settling back in to life here in Jville, I love sitting with my coffee at the breakfast table and going through the BCP readings and Scripture.

That said, I want to share two prayers with you right now. Many of you will already have heard them (especially the first prayer, which is a prayer of confession). As I pray these prayers and meditate on God's goodness, I am so convicted and encouraged. Even if you already know them, I encourage you to go through them with fresh eyes and see if God uses them to speak to you.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Me enjoying the Black Sea in Sozopol, just south of Burgas in Bulgaria

Thursday, July 2, 2009

the lazy-ish cook: best ever simple tomato sauce

I recently made a simple tomato sauce.  And by simple, I mean that it has 4 ingredients and is ridiculously easy to make.  Olive oil, campari tomatoes, fresh parsley and fresh basil.  I can't think of a better tomato sauce.

I made it recently for dinner, and it was simply spectacular.  I made the sauce, then tossed it with gnocchi and topped it with freshly grated parmesean.  On Sunday, I made it to accompany some spinach-mozzerella ravioli (the first course of a 3-course dinner I made for my parents and uncle).  The leftovers from Sunday's sauce are in my fridge as we speak, and I plan to toss it with orzo and serve it with basalmic roasted baby eggplant and asparagus for dinner tonight.

This sauce is versatile and incredibly easy.  And like many of the best dishes, it's unfussy and showcases the exquisite, fresh flavors of the natural foods.

And if your fresh parsley and basil happen to come from your own garden, like mine did, that much the better. :)

So, the sauce.  Quarter campari tomatoes (as much as you want; My rough estimate is 3-4 per person).  Coarsely chop fresh parsley and fresh basil to taste (I used a lot, but then again it's 
free since I'm growing my own).

Heat olive oil (1-2 turns of the pan) in a saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat.  When it's warm, add tomatoes.  Let them simmer until they become "saucey", about 15-20 minutes.  Towards the end of the cooking, throw in the herbs and stir until they wilt, but don't overcook.

You could add salt, pepper or lemon juice to the sauce if you're so inclined, but I was happy with it as is.

Serve with your favorite pasta and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


My 7-year-old cousin spent the night with me last night.  He is absolutely precious and I really enjoyed my time with him.  Like most kids, his conception of age is a little off.  The following exchange took place while we were talking about how old different people we know are:

Me: Well, how old do you think I am?

A: Umm... 63?

Me: SIXTY-THREE????? No!  How old is your dad?

A: 36.

Me:  Right.  So how old do you think I am again? (his dad is about 8 years older than me, and as a child I thought of him as being way older.)

A: 43

Me: NO!!! Do you really think I'm older than your dad?

A: Yes, aren't you?

Me: NO!!!

I had been planning to continue graying naturally since hair color is expensive and I like the idea of aging naturally and gracefully in theory.  But I'm starting to reconsider.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?

A few days ago, overcome by inertia and the urge to procrastinate, I perused the iGoogle gadgets and further personalized my Google homepage.  Now, when a new browser window opens, I am immediately presented not only with the traditional Google search field, but a Wikipedia search field, a word of the day, German word of the day, Spanish word of the day, NYTimes top stories, weather, a box in which to play hangman (which has already robbed me of too much time and will probably be removed soon), pictures of places to see before I die, etc.  I'm loving it.  I'm also loving a little box entitled "Quotes of the Day", which shares three new quotes a day.

Not all the quotes are great, of course, but some of them have procured a smile or given me a moment of reflection.  One of today's quotes made me giggle: "The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.".  I had never heard of its author, Solomon Short, so I clicked over to check him out.  I was not further intrigued, but did happen upon the name of one of my favorite authors and enjoyed reading some of his quotes.  And now, instead of going to sleep like I definitely should be, I am curled up in bed thumbing through a collection of his short stories and blogging about it.  Because, gentle readers, I would hate to think you have somehow missed out on James Thurber.

James Thurber was best known for his contributions as both a short story writer and cartoonist for The New Yorker, and was a colleague and friend of E.B. White (author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, among other things) and Dorothy Parker.

Thurber's writing is clean, simple, sophisticated, elegant, and hilarious.  His creativity and wit are matched by few, and his gift of satire is impeccable.  Thurber's most famous short stories, fables and cartoons are compiled in a book called The Thurber Carnival.  Our family's copy is battered and worn from decades of frequent use (first by my father, then by me).  I particularly enjoy the elements of Thurber's writing that provide glimpses into the lives and thoughts of the New York's literary elite during the first half of the 20th century. 

In case you're curious, here are the titles of some of my favorite Thurber stories (all of which can be found in the Carnival): Something to Say, The Departure of Emma Inch, If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox, The Greatest Man in the World, and What Do You Mean it WAS Brillig?.   (Truth be told, the last story in this list is actually not very politically correct, as its primary subject is Thurber's difficulty in understanding the way his African-American-- a phrase he did not employ-- housekeeper spoke.  However, it is worth remembering that we are all products of our own time and culture, and Thurber was no exception.  Whatever unfortunate elements may be present, it is perhaps not necessary to ignore the brilliance in this story because of them.  Thurber was doubtless a progressive in his day.)

Anyway, if you are so inclined, I urge you to give Mr. Thurber a try.  He's an American Genius, that one.

I'll leave you with a quote by Thurber himself on his writing later in life:
   "With 60 staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and definite hardening of the paragraphs."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

chess squares **AWESOME GUEST BLOGGER!!!**

Laziness is when you have an amazingly perfect and charming blog post written by someone else and you don't get around to posting it. In my defense, I've been pretty busy. But still. This is inexcusable.  Also, I was incredibly unlucky totally blessed that my computer bit the dust and wouldn't even turn on, but was magically resuscitated by a Genius at the Genius Bar.  It now has a new battery and a new lease on life.  So now that things have calmed down a bit and my computer is functioning once more, I am back on track.

A little over a week ago, I used my friend's recipe to make chess squares for a housewarming party.  As I anticipated, they were a huge hit.  So I asked my friend to share the recipe with you.  
Clay is a dear friend, and his blog post warmed my heart and brought a huge smile to my face. The things he writes below are Gospel truth, and remind me very much of the small West Florida (bordering Alabama and Georgia) town where my parents grew up and where some of my extended family still resides.  In fact, my dad often talks about the chess pie my great-grandmother used to make.  Clay's chess squares make the tastebuds dance and soothe the soul (and broaden the hips, but let's not think about that). Enjoy!

First of all, let me express my thanks to Lauren for the opportunity to write on this blog. I appreciate any opportunity I get to write or talk about my southern roots, which weren’t fully appreciated until I had reflected on them from a strange and foreign land – a land not flowing with pimento cheese and banana croquettes; a land often called The Big Apple. Well just reading that nickname you know it has to be the north…if that apple were below the Mason-Dixon line, it would be quickly baked into a cake with a nice glaze or at the very least dipped into some caramel sauce. This is a clear demonstration of the southern culinary ideology that I love so dearly and cling to in spite of the health stores I walk past in New York City. Southern “comfort food” is just that…comforting.

One thing that you need to understand about southern comfort cuisine is that it perhaps reaches its pinnacle under any given church steeple in the south on a Sunday at 12:15 (the invitation went long, in spite of the smell of homemade rolls wafting into the sanctuary) when a congregation gathers to share the most beautiful of occasions – a pot-luck meal. This is the moment that all of the older church ladies have their chance to shine. They’ve been waiting and planning for this all week. Correction: they’ve been preparing for this since they opened their first block of cream cheese! The time has finally arrived for them to put on display their full culinary prowess! This is not just a gathering for food, it’s an all-out competition. You see, as soon as the last pot-luck ended, preparations began for the next event. When someone goes through the food line and asks, “Who made this dish, it looks fantastic,” then the cook has just made it to the semi-finals; when the dish goes home empty, the cook has made the medal stand; and when someone asks the cook for the recipe, it’s cooking gold…

These ladies have been searching for and creating new recipes for months now. Testing, trying, tweaking until that casserole comes out of the oven in a perfect blend of cheese, butter, and substance (such as broccoli or pineapple). Their dish must be divine – cooking is their spiritual gift you know…

All kidding aside, it is important, however, to note that the traditional pot-luck (a full-out display of excess) does not simply fall into categories of competition or meeting physical needs, but instead represents needs that run much deeper – needs that reach into the realms of the emotional and social variety. When a pot-luck is shared, there is laughter, there are stories told, there is advice given, there are experiences that are shared, and ultimately, there are friendships that are deepened. This is camaraderie and fellowship in their purest and most decadent forms.

So with these words I offer a couple of recipes in the southern tradition, laden with butter and love. If you happen to use one of these recipes and have the great fortune to go home from your first pot-luck with an empty dish, by all means, don’t rest on your laurels! One of the church-ladies is already pulling a new rhubarb pie out of the oven!

Chess Squares
1 box yellow cake mix (lemon cake mix is also quite good)
1 stick of melted butter (oh yeaaaah!)
4 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the cake mix, melted butter, and 1 egg (a soft dough will form). Press this mixture into a greased 9x13 inch pan. In a separate bowl, cream until fluffy the cream cheese and remaining 3 eggs. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the crust already in the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Pineapple Casserole
2 cans chunk pineapple, drained
1 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tube Town House crackers, crumbled
1 stick margarine, melted

Mix sugar and flour and then add pineapple and cheese. Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Spread crumbled crackers over top. Pour melted margarine over the crumbs. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Friday, June 12, 2009

pollo casero and gnocchi with spinach in wine sauce

A few weeks ago, I was intrigued by a recipe in a book I was thumbing through at Barnes and Noble.  Because I am broke and ghetto, I copied it down on the back of a receipt I had in my bag (whilst glancing furtively around me, convinced that should I be caught doing such a terrible--or at least tacky--thing, I would suffer great public humiliation and possible prosecution).  I have been meaning to make it for awhile, but just never got around to it.  The opportunity presented itself when I decided to take a meal over to my friend Sarah's house.  Her new house.  That she owns.  She took a break from painting and all the other moving-into-a-new-house work and ate and chatted with me.  I made the chicken and created a recipe for a side dish that incorporated gnocchi, which, devotees will remember, I love.  Here are the recipes and my thoughts on both:

(My goal in cooking this was to feed my friend, my mom, and me for dinner, to leave gnocchi leftovers with my friend, and to have enough chicken for my parents and I to eat again at least once during the weekend.  So the ingredients listed below make a good amount of food.)

Pollo Casero
I liked this chicken well enough (I am not a huge fan of meat.  My mother, who has a discerning palette, gave it rave reviews.) and decided to share it.  And because I clearly lifted the recipe from somewhere else, I found it online and am linking it here.  Full credit for this goes to Mario Batali.

almost done!

The only things I did differently were to add black pepper to the rub, drastically reduce the amount of salt, and to return the discarded garlic to the pan when I added the peppers.  Oh, and I used a jar of roasted red peppers instead of piquillo peppers.  Other than that, it's a go.

Gnocchi with Spinach in Wine Sauce
To be honest, I'll have to say I was a little proud of this.  It was simple and tasty, and went nicely with the chicken.  I will definitely be making this again, and will eat it on its own without chicken.  (honestly, chicken is just so gross to work with raw.  I hate cooking meat, and find the product rarely worth the effort.)  Anyway, I am glad that I'm blogging about it so that I'll actually have a written record of what happened here tonight.  I'd like to recreate it.

~2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 bags of fresh baby spinach
1 bag of frozen gnocchi (16 oz)
drop of olive oil 

For the gnocchi:  put a large(ish) pot of water on to boil with a tad of olive oil in it.  The water will be ready by the time the spinach mixture is finishing, and you can dump the gnocchi in then.

For the spinach and sauce:  Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.  When the butter is melted but not bubbling vigorously, stir in the shallot.  When the shallot is starting to soften, add in the chopped garlic and salt and pepper.  When the shallot and garlic are obviously cooked and about to begin browning, pour in the wine and chicken broth.  Raise heat to medium and let the liquid reduce some.  

While the liquid reduces, steam baby spinach in a skillet with less than 1/4 cup water.  When it's just wilted, add to the sauce mixture.  Remove from heat.

Pour gnocchi into the boiling water.  Let it cook until it rises to the top (about 2-3 minutes).  Drain immediately and return to pot.  Stir in spinach and sauce mixture until gnocchi is well coated and spinach is evenly distributed.  Finally, stir in freshly grated parmesean to taste.

*to make this vegan, replace butter with olive oil, replace chicken broth with vegetable broth, and omit the parmesean.

Sorry for the terrible plating of the finished product.  That was actually in a tupperware dish that I put my mom's dinner in!  I took it to her so that she'd have a meal waiting for her when she finished teaching.  Convenient, yes.  Aesthetically pleasing, no.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I'm having a love affair...

...with Sunshine Burgers.  I have been really into these patties of goodness recently.  The taste, the texture, the purity, oh my.  For the sake of perspective, I will admit that as far as love affairs go, this one is not spectacular.  But as far as healthy, easy food goes, however, these burgers are amazing, and I am indeed having a love affair with Sunshine Burgers.

Yesterday, I had a Sunshine Burger for lunch on a toasted english muffin smeared with somewhat overripe avocado and dijon mustard.  That sandwich is definitely in my top-5 of all time now.  In the past, I have also topped them with caramelized onions and Spanish goat cheese, which was a big hit.  My young cello student's mother (who introduced me to these burgers) serves them on millet rolls with more traditional burger toppings.  But honestly, these are so good, they don't need to be dressed up very much.  I guess that's another thing that makes them so ideal: they stand alone well but are also excellent foundations for more elaborate and adventurous creations.

If you check out the website, you will see that there are several different varieties of Sunshine Burgers.  I have only purchased the original and garden herb varieties, and I liked them both.  My mom, however, made me one at her house that I thought was kind of gross (sorry, Mom).  Unfortunately, I can't give you adequate cautionary information because she threw away the box and forgot which ones she had purchased.  I'm guessing it was the Southwest one, but I could be wrong.  

Anyway, below is a picture of the package.  The word blocked by the glare (sorry I didn't notice it before) is "vegan".  I also took a picture of the ingredients, because you should be really, really impressed by them.  Notice how pure and simple it is.  No chemicals!  I usually cook them in a skillet, though it generally doesn't take as long as the box indicates.   Enjoy!


Monday, June 8, 2009

the lazy-ish cook: broccoli and couscous and carrots and hummus.

Disclaimer: I am aware that the "recipe" I posted below is not a real recipe, nor gourmet food, nor terribly creative. It's just an idea that may provide inspiration when overwhelmed by the I-am-totally-starving-and-tired-and-don't-want-to-cook-and-anyway-can't-come-up-with-an-idea-for-a-quick-and-healthy-meal-monster.

Sometimes, I get hungry.  and tired.  and lazy.

combined, those three elements are a surefire nutritional disaster.  So, I am trying to stockpile recipes and ideas that I can rely on when hunger and fatigue strike simultaneously.  The requirements are: healthy and uses primarily whole foods (no mixes), is obscenely easy, is ready for consumption in less than 20 minutes, and will not make me loathe myself for 2 days after I eat it.

Today's was a winner.  On the table in less than 15 minutes!!!

Preheat oven to 425-ish.  Spray a small pan with nonstick spray (I like organic Pam).  Take some ready-to-eat fresh broccoli florets and place them in the pan.  Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and toss with salt and pepper.  Stick it in the oven for around 10 minutes (however long you like it, about 10 minutes is good for me).
Prepare a serving of couscous according to package directions (I like Near East brand).
While the couscous is sitting covered and the broccoli is finishing up, put a spoonful of hummus on a plate alongside some ready-to-eat fresh baby carrots.
Put the couscous in a bowl, top with the broccoli, and enjoy with the hummus and carrots.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

there's gonna be a floody, floody

This year I've been serving in children's worship at the church I'm attending while in Florida.  Usually I am just around to lead the singing and to run crowd control the rest of the time, but during the month of June I will be teaching the Bible story as well.  The curriculum we were using earlier in the year was nice, but was a bit lacking in substance (don't waste time, people-- give 'em straight-up theology from day 1!).  So until we figure out what's happening next, I'm just using various stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible, which I love.

For some reason, I have had Noah on the brain recently.  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it's because of all the torrential downpours we've had around here.  Torrential downpours that occur day after day after day after day after day after.... you get the picture.  Anyway, I decided to go with Noah for this week since his story kept popping relentlessly into my head.  

It's a familiar story to everyone who was raised in church, and it's an easy story to do with children: the building of a boat, the animals, the rain, the rainbow.  There are also fun songs that go along with the story (like the one referenced in the title of this post).  We talk about God's promises, and fun is had by all.  To be honest, I originally felt like it was a wee bit lazy to do such an easy story, and decided to do some more personal study in the hopes of deepening my understanding and thus improving the lesson I would teach. 

As I contemplated good old Noah and his floating menagerie throughout the week, I was impacted far beyond my expectations.  (Scripture is just so rich!)  The last time I read through Genesis was probably about 4 years ago, and I don't remember that these chapters made a particular impression.  But this time-- WOW!  How convicting and humbling...and encouraging.

The first thing that struck me on this reading was how off I had been about the logistical facts of the story.  I guess my basic theological points were accurate, but the whole "40 days and 40 nights" thing had me thinking that Noah, his family, and the animals were in the ark for 40 days and nights.  Being in cooped up in an ark for that long would have been dreadful.  I would have hated the boredom, the smell, the motion, the darkness, the fear, the lack of privacy, and the unvarying company.  But when I actually took the time to read the passage closely, I realized that while it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, they were in the ark for over a year!!!  I can't even imagine how unspeakably awful it must have been.  I can, however, imagine my reaction to it had I been inside:  "God, You saved me for this??? Are you kidding???  Gee, thanks a lot!  I would have rather drowned!"  Sadly, I can so vividly imagine my probable reaction because it too closely resembles the real reactions of my ungrateful heart.

I also spent some time thinking about what it meant that after everyone who should have been in the ark was inside, God shut the door.  Not Noah or one of his sons, but it was God who sealed them safe and sound inside.  It was a reminder to me that God is my true Protector and Provider.  So often I make plans and try to create situations that I think will give me security instead of relying on God's faithfulness and goodness.  And in reality, all the safety nets I create for myself are more like spider webs.  Sometimes I think if I could only do something to make myself more beautiful or more talented or more intelligent or more kind, then I would be okay.  But God is the only source of my protection and provision; the only source of my salvation.  Nothing I do, no matter how great, will ultimately protect and save me.  I know that it's obvious to Christians, but when I genuinely examine my heart, I realize how shallow and fragile my understanding of this important truth really is.

Also, God gave Noah and his family instructions and when they followed them, God was able to protect and provide for them.  Had Noah refused to build the ark, he would not have been safe.   If he had decided to leave the ark as soon as the rain subsided, he would not have been safe.  Not only that, but Noah and his family remained inside the ark even after it seemed clear that the land was dry; they did not leave until God gave His permission to do so.  This kind of stalwart obedience can only stem from a deep faith and great wisdom that inspires awe in me.  

As I pondered this, I was reminded of some of my favorite imagery from the Psalms.  Often, the psalmists invoke the image of God's hand being on us, or us sitting in His hand.  I love the picture of myself sitting in the hollow of His hand.  I imagine myself planted there securely as I trust and obey, safe from all the dangers, threats, and anxieties that are swirling about beneath His grip.  I rest there contentedly, basking in His loving gaze and confident in His strength and wisdom, knowing that no evil can befall me as long as I am in His hand.

But as I examined my own heart in the light of the story of Noah, I realized that this beautiful picture is rarely--if ever-- reality.  Not that it's not possible, of course.  Ideally, I would be resting in God's hand like that.  But I don't.  More accurate imagery would be that of a petulant toddler who is being prevented from doing something and held against his will.  Imagine a blotchy, red, sweaty, tear-stained face, a voice hoarse from screaming, clothes wet with drool and tears, a body exhausted from kicking and writhing in anguish, and a mind irrationally tormented with desires for control and the opportunity to do that which is not beneficial.  That's what I look like.  More optimistically, I could perhaps see myself sitting in His hand, peering anxiously over the edge at the dangers and wondering just how I am going to take care of all those problems.  Very seldom do I actually rest in His grip, and it's usually not until after I have exhausted myself from kicking and screaming.

The ark was certainly not pleasant.  It may have not seemed like such a great reward for a (very long) lifetime of faithfulness and obedience.  But it was how God protected Noah and his family.  It was the best thing for them.  And even as I see the story of my life unfold and am astounded by the amazing opportunities that God gives me, I am too often unthankful and resentful for the roads the journey takes me down.  I've had some really hard things in my life.  While I have been blessed abundantly, few things have come without struggles-- some of them profound.  Unfortunately, I easily become angry or despondent when it seems like my obedience has led me to yet another place I'd rather not be.  But then sometimes He gives me these moments of sparkling clarity when I get to see how things are working together: a friend who blessed me or whom I was able to bless, a lesson I learned, a skill I developed, how I was protected from harm, how I was forced to do a 180 degree turn and go in a completely new direction, and, sometimes, how I was able to have time for much needed rest and reflection instead of continuously charging ahead.  When I am able to glimpse just a small part of the "why", I am humbled, awed and thankful for a God who is so powerful and wise and yet is so personal and loving.  I am also deeply ashamed and sorrowful for my grotesque lack of faith in light of all that He has done.  May these tiny glimpses be instructive to me as I grow in faith and wisdom and learn to rest in His protection.

So, Sunday morning, I'll talk about Noah with the children.  We'll sing silly songs and make animal noises (will I regret opening that door?) and rejoice in God's promises.  Hopefully, our faith will be renewed and our resolve to obey will be strengthened.  And most importantly, I hope that each one of us leaves that room tomorrow more deeply in love with our gracious God and more able to rest competely in His hand.

Sing with me now
(c'mon, you know you want to)

...So, rise and shine
And give God the glory, glory
Rise and shine
And give God the glory, glory
Rise and shine and (clap)
Give God the glory, glory
Children of the LORD!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

gnocchi with vegetables and cannellini beans

I like frozen gnocchi.  A lot.  It took me awhile to discover these tasty morsels.  See, I have enjoyed gnocchi in restaurants for a very long time (a particular favorite is at Max SoHa in NYC).  But whenever I made it at home, I used dried gnocchi and it was always disgusting.  Then, one day last year, I serendipitously happened upon a bag of frozen gnocchi in a grocery store near my last apartment in Harlem.  I happily discovered that frozen gnocchi has a tender, fluffy suppleness that rivals fresh gnocchi.  And while I readily admit that frozen gnocchi isn't better than fresh, it is an adequate substitute (at least until I attempt to make gnocchi from scratch!).  

I hadn't made any gnocchi dishes for awhile, but was recently inspired and decided to have a go. It was a success, and I am sure I will be making many more gnocchi dishes in the near future.
This dish was inspired by a picture that I saw in a magazine.  I didn't read the accompanying recipe; I just saw a picture of gnocchi with zucchini and tomatoes, and this was born.  (Sorry for my questionable units of measurement.)

gnocchi with vegetables and cannellini beans

chop up: 1 medium zucchini, 1 medium carrot, 6 campari tomatoes, 2 spring onions, 6 cloves of garlic, fresh basil (about 8 leaves), and most of a container of baby bella mushrooms.

You will later add a few generous handfuls of fresh baby spinach, a can of cannellini beans, some wine, black pepper, scant tablespoon sugar, 1/3 jar of tomato sauce, and a package of frozen gnocchi.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.  Over another burner on medium to medium-high heat, give a skillet two turns of olive oil.  Let it heat up and add the zucchini and carrots.  Cook them for a few minutes, then add the garlic, spring onions and mushrooms.  Cook that a little longer and add the tomatoes.  Drain a can of cannellini beans and dump them in.  Add black pepper to taste.  If you have about a cup of wine leftover, then by all means, pour that in (I emptied a bottle of Chardonnay).  If you think it needs it, sprinkle a scant tablespoon of sugar in as well.  Let that all simmer until the vegetables are just tender; overcooking vegetables makes them mushy, which will ruin just about any dish.  Pour off--or ladle out-- some of the extra juice.  Add in 1/3 jar of tomato sauce (I used some cheap Classico sauce).  Finally, throw in the spinach and fresh basil leaves.  Stir well until the spinach is just starting to wilt.  Cover and remove from heat. Let it sit and finish steaming the spinach while you prepare the gnocchi.

Prepare the gnocchi according to package directions.  Do NOT overcook-- it really does only take about 2 minutes, and they're done as soon as they float to the top.  Drain them immediately and stir them into the vegetable mix.  And you're ready to eat!  I topped mine with parmigiano-reggiano.

Obviously, this was a very loose recipe and there's lots of room for improvisation with your own culinary creativity!  Enjoy!

The pictures are: 
1.  The vegetables simmering in in their own juices and wine, before removing some of the liquid and adding the beans and tomato sauce.
2.  The completed sauce as I took it off the heat to finish steaming.
3.  yummy supper.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

return with lox

I'm back... by (suprisingly) popular demand.

I did think anyone was reading.  I was wrong!  Several friends have requested that I put more cooking info (tips, recipes, ideas, etc.) on the blog.  I would love to help!  I love to cook and have all kinds of hospitality ideas.  I want all my friends that want to cook and entertain to never be intimidated by the idea.  So while I will definitely be posting on other things as well, I promise to share all my cool culinary finds and ideas with you.

With that in mind, I'm starting a "Lauren likes..." section.  I will post pictures and/or links to products that I really like.  And away we go.

This is not really a recipe, since it's just a sandwich and you don't really make anything.  It's just an idea and some product suggestions.  Anyway.

This is one of my favorite lunches to make for myself.  It's on Whole Foods prairie bread, which I love.  Spread a thin layer of cream cheese (I like Snofrisk, more on that in a second) on both sides.  Add thinly sliced European cucumbers, spring mix, and smoked salmon.  Delicious!  I had mine with some raw baby carrots.

In order to make this well, I think a few things are important.  First, European cucumbers are awesome.  They are seedless and taste amazing (and are, unfortunately, more expensive).

Second, the type of salmon you use is important.  At least it's important to me.  I hate, hate, hate overly fishy-tasting salmon.  Also, salmon is not so cheap, and it is quite disappointing for me to shell out my hard-earned money on some only to find it repulsive.  Luckily, I have found my perfect smoked salmon match at Whole Foods, and it doesn't even cost an arm and a leg.  It has a delicately smokey flavor, it's not too salty, and while you're aware that you're eating fish, it doesn't taste like it had a terminal illness prior to being caught and smoked.  Here it is (sorry that I forgot to take a picture before I opened it! I was hungry!):

And last but not least, the cheese.  I love this new cheese I found at Whole Foods:

If you enlarge the picture, you'll see that it's made from goat's milk.  This gives it a little bit of that characteristic bite found in chévre. It's not overwhelming by any means, but I think it has a better taste and slightly better texture than regular cream cheese. 

For those of you that are gluten-free (love ya, Megs!) or don't want a sandwich, this could also be a salad.  Omit the bread, replace the snofrisk with goat cheese crumbles, and add tomatoes.  Drizzle it with olive oil and lemon juice.  Yum!  And if you're vegan, better luck next time (sorry, fern).  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

on airports.

I just arrived back in Jville after about 3 weeks traveling for auditions. I am missing NYC (especially YOU, nyc friends!) in a big way, but am so happy to be back in my own house again and not living out of a suitcase. This morning was the best part—a great quiet time at my kitchen table with my carefully prepared café au lait in my favorite mug. I made a chocolate-caramel-sea salt tart for my parents last night, and have spent today teaching and “nesting” (cleaning, unpacking, resettling, etc.) It’s good to be back in my own space again. I plan to spend tonight reading and watching movies. Good stuff.

There are many things I feel I could share, but for some reason I want to tell you about the Detroit and Cincinnati airports. I don’t have much to say about the Detroit airport other than to say that there is a psychedelic tunnel there that reminds me very much of waiting in line for Space Mountain at Disney World. There was even music to go along with it. It was weird. Apparently, other people thought so too because there were videos of the tunnel on youtube. Here is one of them. I prefer the more clichéd tunnel at the Zurich airport, which my Swiss friend, Reto, says is the shame of his nation. Here is the romantic ending of the tunnel’s video.

The Cincinnati airport made more of an impression on me. First of all, it smells strongly of popcorn. There are worse smells, but at 8 am it wasn’t very appealing to me. The second thing I noticed is that there were airport info desks throughout the airport with signs indicating that all the info desks were staffed by volunteers from the community. While a very nice gesture, it struck me as being very, very odd. Who decides to go to the airport and volunteer to direct travelers to their gate and/or where to buy a magazine?  My mom suggested that perhaps those who couldn't afford to travel might like to at least go to the airport.  This suggestion is far beyond depressing to me.

Also, the Cincinnati airport features this statue, with a sign saying something about the "Spirit of Pigcinnati”. While I realize there is some significance to the flying pig in this fair city, it seems like a town that could summon enough volunteers to staff their airport info desks deserves a better monument in its airport.

My final comment on the Cincinnati airport is that the sinks in the bathroom have made it into my Top 5 Weirdest Public Sinks list (which I just now created). The sinks look normal enough—like any other sinks. I approached a sink and stuck my hands under the faucet. Nothing happened. I looked to see if I had to turn something on, but no. I did, however, see a small sign that instructed hopeful hand-washers to walk up to the sink in order to activate the sensor that turned on the water. The sign then went on to inform us that black clothing would not activate the sensor. Because I was wearing a black shirt and black coat, I had to bend down and swing my colorful scarf in front of the sink in order to turn on the water. Had I been wearing a black scarf also, apparently I would have been forced to leave with dirty hands.

I started to also write about traveling with my cello and maneuvering airports with her on my back, but that would make the post way too long and I would probably come across sounding like a bitter woman.  So I’ll save it for another time when the wounds aren’t so fresh.

The weather here is nice and I learned how to make that great chocolate-caramel-sea salt tart. Come visit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

the least of these.

I don't intend for this blog to be political, and will rarely, if ever, discuss politics here.  (Namely because I have differing political views from nearly all of my friends!)  However, this extends far beyond the political and is one of the most distressing things I have seen in a long, long time.  This bill is radically anti-life, and the lives of thousands of unborn babies are at stake.  One of the things that distresses me most is that this would bill require all hospitals to offer abortions, even Catholic hospitals.  Several Catholic bishops have said that if this is enforced, many Catholic hospitals would be forced to close since they won't participate in the murder of babies and the destruction of women's lives.  Considering how many Catholic hospitals serve our communities nation-wide, this should be a concern to those who claim to be fighting for the rights of everyday people. 

President Obama has vowed to sign this horrifying bill into law when it crosses his desk.  He has already decided to permit the use our tax dollars to fund the slaughter of the unborn worldwide.  Let's pray he changes his mind about signing this bill into law.  Like most Americans, I want very much for this country to be a place where everyone is taken care of.  Let's begin with the most vulnerable among us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

it's here.

I'm leaving tomorrow for auditions.  It's really happening.  (I may not be updating this blog for awhile.)

Am I nervous?  Yes.  Definitely.  But throughout the process so far, God has proved Himself to be indescribably gracious and merciful.  So I'm just reminding myself of that and meditating on 2 passages of Scripture that have been helpful to me during this time: Isaiah 54 and 42.

My auditions are on January 30, February 4, and February 14.  Please pray that they will go well, and that my nerves will be under control.  I haven't taken an audition like this in 6 years, so I'm a little concerned about what my performance energy will be like.  

Hopefully my brief interactions at the schools will also give me some insight into which one would be a good fit for me.  I don't have a strong preference at this point.  

 I am so thankful for all the awesome, supportive friends I have (i.e., you!)

Monday, January 26, 2009

the list: 25 things.

Quite a few friends have done this list recently, and have asked me to do it too.  It's just 25 random things about myself.  I think it's a little narcissistic and silly, but it's also a little fun to see what people come up with.  So here you have it.  Unfortunately, I think some of my random things may also fit into a list of shameful confessions.  (I'd like to see 25 things about you!)

1. I am obsessed with coffee. I have 5 different coffee makers (drip, french press, espresso machine, turkish, vietnamese), and a Bodum milk frother.

2. When I was little (like 2-4), I had an imaginary sister named Catherine. I insisted that she have a place set at the table and that she be buckled up in the car. I even introduced her to strangers, much to my mother's chagrin.

3. I love to cook. I spend a lot of time looking at food blogs and planning menus. I also often try to make recipes without using a lot of equipment (even when it's called for), because when I travel I am often in places with limited resources and I don't want to be dependent on gadgets. I am also obsessed with good ingredients, and derive a shameful amount of pleasure from specialty grocery shops.

4. I am a true picture of God's mercy, love and grace.

5. Periodically I buy very nice tea and say I am going to become a "tea person" (in addition to, not instead of, being a "coffee person"). But you know what? Frankly, I think that tea is overrated. I like it and all, and there are those times when a cuppa really hits the spot, but I think I am going to quit forcing it on myself.

6. I cry every day. Not sobbing, of course, but I am easily moved and tear up quickly over the smallest, sappiest things. I try to hide it because I know it's ridiculous, and most of the time I am successful. So that's why you've never noticed.

7. Although I would never describe myself as a fan, while in the South I listen to a fair amount of country music. I mean, in what other genre can you have a romantic rendezvous, a fight, a tragedy, and then faithful, undying love... all in one song?

8. I am highly emotional. Despite my best efforts to always think rationally and be level-headed, my feelings often get the best of me. On the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am over 90% "F", or feeling, as opposed to "T", thinking.

9. I have a serious case of wanderlust.

10. I love to take care of people.

11. I'm not shy, but I get pretty nervous and uncomfortable when I'm around a lot of people that I don't know.

12. I especially like to watch foreign films because even if the film itself isn't that good, you can still learn something about the language and culture.

13. This may be my weirdest one: I cannot bear to be anywhere near someone who is brushing their teeth. I will freak out. The sight of it, the sound of it... AAUUUGGGHHHHH. It totally sets me off. I have had to train all of my roommates to NEVER approach me, talk to me, or come into the same room as me if they are brushing their teeth. I cannot even begin to tell you what that does to me. (I brush my own teeth regularly, don't worry. And I want everyone else to brush, too-- just not in front of me.)

14. I usually have trouble relaxing enough to go to sleep.  Then after I do fall asleep, I have even more trouble waking up.

15. I can think of a few places where I might not really want to go, but I can't think of anywhere that I wouldn't go.

16. I love languages.

17. I love being a girl.

18. I love "winging it" in a foreign country where I can't use English. I love the challenge and feeling of accomplishment when I get what I need and do what I want to do in a totally foreign environment. When I travel, I try never to stay in really nice places, but to live, shop, eat, travel, etc. like the locals do-- no matter how rough or strange it is.

19. I almost never forget people's names and faces. I also remember personal details more easily than other facts. Unfortunately, knowing the names of historical figures' children and pets does not usually help on exams.

20. I have studied for the LSAT three times but never actually taken it. One of my friends finally pointed out that crying in the courtroom is generally frowned upon, and I might have trouble controlling my emotions during heated litigation.

21. I am quite possibly the most non-athletic person ever.

22. I am absurdly competitive. Even when I'm just playing a trivia game online, I sometimes imagine that I'm competing against others for a big prize and/or impose time limits if they're not given.

23. I have terrible spatial and mechanical intelligence. Even children's puzzles are sometimes challenging for me. It's so bad that when I took a sewing class in 7th grade, I was never actually able to make anything because it would take the whole period each meeting for me to thread the machine and lay the pattern out on the fabric. The teacher told my mom to let me quit and said, "You know, she doesn't have to be good at everything."

24. I took ballet, tap and jazz dance for 9 years. My parents originally signed me up because they hoped to reduce the number of times I tripped over my own feet while walking. I still trip a lot, but it probably would have been worse.

25. I am the epitome of the all-or-nothing person.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

flashback: a glimpse of lauren at sixteen.

Last month my mom was driving us along twisting, winding roads lined with magnificent oak trees and lovely Victorian homes (one of which Harriet Beecher Stowe supposedly inhabited for awhile). As we turned onto a little street called County Dock Lane, I suddenly had a flashback.

Twelve years ago, when I was a new driver, Mom and I were both in the car on that same little road.  Except that time, I was driving.  My mom had a great deal of trouble adjusting to the passengers' seat, and I did drive too fast.  We often fought in this situation, and that day it all came to a head right in the middle of County Dock Lane. She criticized and threatened one too many times, and my response was to slam on the brakes, throw the gear into park, fling open the door, and jump out of the car.  Right in the middle of the road. 

I yelled something about how she was never happy with what I did, how I could never please her, etc.  Or maybe I screamed something about how she was a control freak but she couldn't control me.  I don't remember exactly, but I'm sure it was one of the two (my repertoire was not large, but the selections were always performed with great dramatic flair).

I ran around the car and dove into the back seat.  Life was so horrifically unfair.  Being sweet 16 was not as lovely or fun I had hoped (read: miserably awkward social misfit), and my mom was always nagging me about stupid, meaningless things like picking up after myself, being ready to leave on time, practicing, and now, driving too fast.  I was determined to ignore her senile rants.

Eventually, we settled on her never, ever riding in the car with me driving.  And about a year later, I left home and spent most of the next 10 years in places where I didn't drive anyway (London, New York, Moscow).

FYI, I am a somewhat more cautious driver now, although sometimes I speed because I never did completely master the whole being ready to leave on time thing.  I am happy to report, however, that my home is generally quite tidy and I voluntarily practice for hours on end. And in case you're wondering, Mom really tries to relax when I'm driving now (and I try to slow down).  But the occasions upon which I am the driver and she the passenger are indeed rare. It just works out best for everyone that way.

So a few days ago when we were on County Dock Road, I laughed and reminded her of the incident.  She said she didn't remember it. She rolled her eyes, shook her head and said, "I blocked all that stuff."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good Stuff.

I heard the lyrics of this John Newton hymn in a sermon I was listening to recently.  I googled the text and found it.  Apparently it's supposed to be sung to the tune of "O Worship the King".  What a great exhortation and a reminder of the hope I have.

Begone, Unbelief

Begone, unbelief,
My Savior is near,
And for my relief
Will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle,
And He will perform;
With Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way,
Since He is my Guide,
'Tis mine to obey,
'Tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken,
And creatures all fail,
the word He hath spoken
Shall surely prevail.

His love, in time past,
Forbids me to think
He'll leave me at last
In trouble to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer 
I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure
To help me quite through.

Why should I complain
Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain?
He told me no less;
The heirs of salvation,
I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation
Must follow their Lord.

How bitter that cup
No heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up,
That sinners might live!
His way was much rougher 
And darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer,
And shall I repine?

Since all that I meet
Shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet,
The medicine, food;
Though painful at present,
'Twill cease before long,
And then, oh, how pleasant
The conqueror's song!