Cooking Freezer Meals Before the Baby Arrives

Though it feels incredibly hard to believe, our little bundle of joy is due in a mere five weeks. I’m ready for her to get here already. This last month of pregnancy is no joke and I’m ready to be done.

However, there are still things to do to prepare and she’s still got a bit more growing to do so I guess it’s better that we both wait. The nursery is almost done. My hospital bag is packed. And though the car seats still need to be installed in both our cars, I feel mostly ready except for the fact that I hadn’t yet done anything to prepare for food. I love cooking and it seems impossible to imagine that there will be a whole stretch of time that I won’t want to cook, but I’m told that that will happen. I’ll be tired. She’ll need my full attention and no cooking will happen — so it’s best to be prepared.

This isn’t the first time you’ve seen a menu appear here. Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry but you’ll surely find that I’ve done some menu planning with actual ingredients from my pantry and fridge.

This menu is, however, a tad different. It is not a weekly menu as you may have seen in the past. It is instead how I’m tackling the first round of freezer meals before our baby arrives. I intend to do two more rounds after this week. (Yes, I am insane.) But, I’m already feeling pretty fantastic that my freezer is filling up.

Here’s the plan — well, really more of a list — for this week of freezer meals including the all important notes on how to freeze and defrost. There are two recipes missing from this list because they don’t exist on the internet but in my cookbooks, but I can tell you that there’s a lot more soup and chili going into my freezer.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Mole. This was the easiest meal to make. It involved chopping up raw chicken and throwing a bunch of stuff in the food processor. This is magic. What you do is simply prepare vegetable puree and tomato puree and then pour both over raw chicken in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. To reheat, thaw overnight in fridge and then cook in crock pot for 4 hours on high.

Celeriac Soup. Make soup and let cool completely. Pour into large zip-top plastic freezer bag and lie flat. To reheat, pour soup into a large Dutch oven; bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Slow Cooker Chili. This is a recipe I stole from my dear friend Corey. It’s delicious though this is the first time I’ve actually made it. It smelled so good. What you do is just make chili and let cool completely. Pour into large zip-top plastic freezer bag and lie flat. To reheat, pour soup into a large Dutch oven; bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Spanish-Style Meatloaf. This is one of those recipes that I used to make all of the time with this wonderful ground turkey that I loved so much from when I lived in Maine. Sadly, it went out of rotation when I moved to Washington but I decided to resurrect it because it’s really easy to make and my farm share gave me a lion’s share of the ingredients. Make recipe as directed and let cool completely. To freeze, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. To reheat, thaw before placing in oven at 350° until warmed through. The cheese will bubble. That will be your big hint it’s ready.

Sausage and Vegetable Calzones. I made these yesterday and they look a mess, but I’m hoping they still taste good and fit the bill of hand-held meals that breastfeeding women everywhere covet. The recipe instructs on how to freeze and reheat.

Sweet Potato and Black Beans Empanadas. I will make these today or tomorrow with the sweet potatoes from my farm share. To freeze, much like the calzones, wrap cooled, partially baked empanadas individually in foil, and seal in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Reheat by unwrapping each empanada and baking at 400° for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

I struggled to find a good batch of recipes for freezer meals before the baby arrives on the internet. My search terms may have been off, but I’m hoping that this helps other moms as they try to prepare for life to change completely. I hope to share the next two rounds in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, what are your favorite freezer meals? What have you brought to friends and family or what is currently waiting to be thawed in your freezer?

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Cooking with Door-to-Door Organics

For months now, I’ve been clicking and poking around the internet in search of some form of Community Supported Agriculture that might carry us through our one and only winter in Kansas. I’ve tried every thing but found nothing until the week after I finally resigned myself to ordering Door to Door Organics. Only then, in the first few days after I got to Kansas, did I find out in a Facebook group that there is something. Here it is.

fullsizerender-2I had however already signed us up for this other service. And I’m not a quitter so we are sticking with it. Here we are on week three already.

And it’s OK. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either. Here is my short list of blessings and woes.

  1. It is organic. It boasts this proudly and all of the veggies and other products they sell seem to meet this very complicated standard. This is a blessing.
  2. The good people at Door to Door Organics encourage you to plan and allow you to add and subtract all of the things form the cart that you might possibly want. For someone like me — or maybe someone like you who plans everything to the last detail — this is amazing. A few days before the box arrives on my doorstep, I get an email telling me what will be in the box and I can make any changes I want until 10:00 pm the night before. This is a blessing.
  3. They hint that they will use local farmers to the best of their ability. They do not. It is not local. I get that bananas and tomatoes aren’t growing even in hot houses at this time of year but then give me the stuff that is actually in season.  Make that available. (My husband wanted the fruit. I ddi not win that one.) Give me all of the root vegetables! They have those but they are not from local farms and I am utterly confused. It messes with my stewardship practices and make me really unhappy. Woe, woe to the false advertising.

The box arrives again on Tuesday so here’s a menu plan that caters to our box. You’ll notice that I have a few favorite blogs. That much wasn’t changed though I am cooking a bit more from my cookbooks this week now hat they are finally unpacked.

There is something I’m thinking about though.

I’m thinking aoubt starting a newsletter called News From My Kitchen. I started to design it and everything. I’m imagining it to be an occasional potluck of recipes, writings and whatever else I might be cooking up at the moment. I hope I’m not over using this whole new last name before we’ve even hit our six month anniversary. Sometimes I think it’s too cute. Other times I think I’m hysterical. Really, it depends upon how much coffee I’ve had. No matter, would you be interested? Would you sign up? Let me know. In the meantime, here are some recipes for the week.

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Sunday I am going to spend the day in the kitchen making my favorite chili and cornbread.  I suspect that I’ll also be making a few other things while I’m in the kitchen.

Monday There’s going to be a lot of meat in our menu this week. This is not common for us. We tend to eat mostly vegetarian at home so today feels like a good day to join in on the fun of meatless monday. We’ll be doing that by dishing up Toasted Farro with Pear, Hazelnuts and Arugula from Feasting at Home while we hand out candy to the trick or treaters.

Tuesday There are no apples in our box this week but we have so many from weeks prior that I’ll be happy to use them in the Broad Fork’s Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sorghum and Roasted Apples. There will be a side of roasted broccoli with this one.

Wednesday The temps are not supposed to dip even a little bit this week but I’m going to pretend that it’s fall (er, winter) and cook up some Winter Squash Curry.

Thursday We will need another salad so it’ll have to be Roasted Sweet Potato and Farro Salad by Cookie + Kate.

Friday When I arrived in Leavenworth, the freezer was stocked with pulled pork from a local church fundraiser. It seems that Nigel got cajoled in supporting a friend’s church and ended up with all of this pork. He called in dismay when it happened but ultimately decided to freeze it. Now, we have to use it. Oh so sad! I’ll be creating my own Pulled Pork BBQ Pizza and maybe even will post a recipe for it here. Maybe.

There is certainly more in the box that will need to get used but that’s what I’ve cooked up so far. I hope it’s a good week with our Door to Door Organics box.

Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry. (Or at least, I hope they are new and exciting recipes.) I love to cook both in the kitchen and swap recipes for all sorts of things. So, what are you cooking this week? What’s on your menu?

Cooking for the Family, Again

In less than two weeks, worship will end and I’ll hop in my car and drive off into the cornfields. After way too long apart, Nigel and I will be together again. All will be well. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Before then, there are still a few adventures to be had in the kitchen and beyond. Corey is a big fancy graphic designer. (She is actually using the art degree that brought us together in the first place.) This week, there’s an artsy shindig and I get to be her date in the big city. My parents are coming to visit this weekend and next week I’m looking to a final hurrah in NYC and a ridiculous night of fun with my dear cousin in Atlantic City.

I will not be gambling at the casinos but I might be gambling in the kitchen. You heard about my challenges in cooking for Corey and her family in my last post. It continues as I try to cook bland, boring food for children. (I’m kidding. Sorta.) My strategy has been try to make one dish that has a kid version. Sometimes that has even worked. This week is no different.

Here’s the dinner plan for the week. As usual, you’ll see that I get my inspiration from a few usual suspects.

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Tuesday We’ll be enjoying one of my favorites from Cookie + Kate, Spicy Sweet Potato and Green Rice Burrito Bowls. The components of this work really well for kids with a little less spice. Both kids loved her other version of a burrito bowl (as did Mom and Dad). So I’m hoping they like this one too.

Wednesday We have some chicken thighs to use from the freezer so I’m excited to try Smitten Kitchen’s Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka. We’ll be using broccoli with the cauliflower though because the kids love the broccoli.

Thursday We’ll be serving Super Kale, Hemp and Flaxseed Oil Pesto. After conferring with Corey, we are hoping that the fact that it’s pesto will hopefully make the kids want to eat the yummy pesto. We might be dreaming, but we can hope.

On Friday, I’m going out to dinner with my parents but I might never have as good an excuse to make challah than blessing the shabbat table of my dear friends. So, I’m going to take a stab later this week at this Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah. It’s going to be another great week of yummy meals.

Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry. I love to cook both in the kitchen and swap recipes for all sorts of things. So, what are you cooking this week? What’s on your menu?

Recipe for Learning to Pray

Last week, I finally finished Carol Howard Merritt’s Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation. It really shouldn’t have taken me that long and it is certainly no reflection on the book. It’s me. I had three chapters back in April and then felt this overwhelming need to never read a book about church again. Of course, that didn’t last that long and I returned to these pages again. What I love about this book is that it’s really about the kind of community we can be in the church. It’s about technology, yes, but more about how we are creating community right now which inevitably involves social media for that so-called “new generation” (of which, I guess, I am a part). It’s about the kind of community we are looking for which Carol explains in this way:

When we are surrounded by a supportive community who is helping us discern and who feels free to agree and disagree with what we are hearing from God, then our listening for God can become a humbling experience rather than an exercise that puts a divine rubber stamp on our own decisions.

It is an act of prayer. It’s something we like to believe we’ll just find ourselves in. All of the sudden just surrounded by a group of supportive people who can help with such discernment.

We need someone that will walk with us and help us see what we can not see for ourselves.  We need a partner, a friend, someone who gets it. Someone who can listen and isn’t afraid to ask questions. Someone who won’t just say it’ll all work out in the end but someone who will dare to ask the hard questions. Do you know someone like that?

This is what prayer is all about. It is a practice in staying in the conversation. It is an intention to listen. It is the hope that I might be open enough to hear what God might be saying. It’s a practice that quite honestly I have to remind myself to which I need to pay better attention — and it seems to me that it’s really better to do together.

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Learn more about Prayer Partners here

There are tons of ways to pay attention to the ways of God on your own. Some of my favorite practices include Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina and the Daily Examen but I want to offer you a little something from my kitchen because I really do believe that practicing with another person makes all of the difference in the world. It’s something I wish for my own prayer life and something I hope will bless yours.

It’s an invitation to partner in prayer. I recommend it for congregations and friends. It’s something that I hope can be used in more ways that I can even imagine because, really, no one of us can know the will of God. It’s only something we can pray to understand together. You can order your very own guide here.

Like so many recipes for ministry, the directions sound incredibly simple but it takes a little flair to make these ingredients come together. It takes the right people and extra dab of trust and a big heaping of love that the recipe might not call for. For that reason, the recipe is incredibly hard to write but here goes nothing.

RECIPE FOR MINISTRY

 

 

Cooking for the Family

It’s been almost two months since I got married. I went on an epic two-week honeymoon and then came back to our house only to prepare the movers. We prepared as best we could in twenty four hours. I preached a sermon in there too, and then the movers arrived. We had the worst possible moving experience known to humanity, but all of the stuff got on the truck. Nigel drive off to our new home where he had to report for duty in seventy two hours and I moved in with my friend Corey.

Corey and I went to college together. A few months back, over lunch in the city, I asked her if she needed a nanny. Corey was, at that point, expecting her third child. I was looking for a place to live as I had committed to a year contract with a church. I wanted to honor that contract but we couldn’t afford two rents, so I was problem solving as best I could. Surely, we could barter. Free room for some help with childcare? That seems like a fantastic idea. Corey assumed I was kidding. I was not. I wasn’t at all.

A few months later, I moved in. Corey had the baby. She’s adorable! Her older siblings are adjusting and things are almost normal. It’s still very weird to be so far away from my husband. Also still weird to say husband. I’m not yet used to that, but weirder still because we’re not actually together. It’s weird to embark on this next adventure when we’re not doing it together. And it’s just so hard to feel settled and normal when everything is not, but thankfully I still get to cook. Cooking makes me feel normal, even in someone else’s kitchen where I can ever find the colander. I can never find the colander in Corey’s kitchen.

Cooking for Corey and her family has new challenges for me. Biggest among them is the fact that there are kids. Nigel will eat anything. He’s really a good sport that way. He’s truly game for anything I want to concoct. And though these kids are not picky eaters, they will not eat anything. Sad but true. Kids will be kids. Luckily, Corey and her husband like to eat and they also like to have someone else do the cooking while they try to feel normal with three kids, rather than too. All of this means I get to cook. I get to cook and we found a new favorite food blog which means we’re basically trying everything that looks remotely tasty on Half Baked Harvest —  which is basically everything. This week is no exception.

Here’s the dinner plan for the week. You’ll note I haven’t made any notes about what the kids are eating. I’m adapting slowly, clearly.

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Monday Neighbors have given a stock pile of food for the family with a newborn. (Unlike the other neighbors, they haven’t caught on to the fact that I’m cooking up a storm for the family.) They bright lasagnas, two different kind of quiches ad a case of beer. We will be having the lasagna and making a side salad to go with it.

Tuesday We are trying a new recipe and are beyond excited to gobble down this Balsamic Peach Basil Chicken Salad with Crispy Prosciutto from Half Baked Harvest.

Wednesday After trying something new, we are going to repeat something we’ve enjoyed before. This is the night for 20 Minute Cashew Chicken from Half Baked Harvest. I tried to warn you that we are a bit in love with this blog.

Thursday After being good and having a salad way back when on Tuesday, we are going to go for Cheddar Cornbread Waffle BLT with Chipotle Butter from Half Baked Harvest. Without a waffle maker in the house, and mine being with my husband, we are going to make pancakes instead of waffles. It should be delicious.

 

Friday will be a wild card or the night we eat all the leftovers. It seems there will be plenty of leftovers! Of course, there are other meals to eat and therefore other recipes to try. Earlier this week, Cookie + Kate posted a new recipe on her blog. This delicious fruit salad will definitely make it unto the rotation. Last week, I also discovered avocado toast and it kinda changed my life so I’m eager to try these life-changing variations. It promises to be a delicious week.

Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry. (Or at least, I hope they are new and exciting recipes.) I love to cook both in the kitchen and swap recipes for all sorts of things. So, what are you cooking this week? What’s on your menu?

Recipe for the Worrying Church

Sometimes it is the Lectionary that sparks an idea or sometimes it is a story that you have held close over these many years. This recipe is a little bit of both.

On Sunday, we will hear the story of Martha who is very worried and distracted. She’s rushing about and keeping busy. She’s doing all of the things and not getting an ounce of help. Understandably, she complains. To this, Jesus chides her. Or it seems he chides her for not choosing the better part like her sister Mary.

But, telling someone not to worry is just stupid and rather pointless. They will then begin to worry about the fact that they are worrying. That is, if they are really worry warts, that is what they will do. Best not to tell them their worrying is pointless but instead redirect their worry and distraction in some other more helpful way.

This brings me to the story that will begin my sermon on Sunday. It is the story of Jerry and Brian from my days of serving in Maine. In my sermon, I tell their story like this:

Brian and Jerry are bridge partners. I knew this because Jerry, who came to Bible Study every week after his wife fell ill, talked about his bridge partner all of the time. I knew Brian, of course. He also came to worship every Sunday but Brian was far more quiet than Jerry. Jerry talked a lot.

He talked about everything loudly and enthusiastically. He spoke like a teenager that was so excited that he just couldn’t get the words out fast enough. So the words all clumped together. Sometimes I had to ask him to repeat himself. Because I didn’t want to miss out on his joy. But, Jerry was getting more and more confused. He fumbled his words and thoughts jumbled too.

And do Brian, his bridge partner, gave him a worry stone, a worry stone that Jerry carried around in his pocket all of the time. He would show it to me when he couldn’t remember what he wanted to say. And then, he’s explain how Brian encourages him. Whenever Jerry starts to wander, Brian asks if he has his stone. This worked until one day when Brian asked about the stone, and Jerry said he lost it.

Jerry, like Martha, did not need a reminder that he should just stop worrying. What he needed was another worry stone. Likewise, we should not busy ourselves as leaders in the church telling those in the pews not to worry. They are already really worried. They are worried about violence and hate spurned by racism, maybe even their own racism. They are worried about the election, what that election might mean for their advocacy or even their church’s programs. Never mind the needs of their families.

I so appreciate Elisabeth Johnson’s wisdom on Working Preacher in her reminder that “we cannot seem to quell our anxious thoughts and frantic activity. It is true that much of our busyness and distraction stems from the noblest of intentions. We want to provide for our families, we want to give our children every opportunity to enrich their lives, we want to serve our neighbors, and yes, we want to serve the Lord.” There is good reason to worry about the future including the future of our churches. It comes from the noblest of intentions. We want to serve the Lord but this is so overwhelming that we can’t help but get a little lost like Jerry.

Here is the recipe.

RECIPE FOR MINISTRY-2

With every good recipe, there are a few more hints. There are notes that you make as you make it your own which you’ll surely add to this card, but here are a few I’d add to my own recipe:

  • Rocks can not only be collected but also be ordered rocks like these at Oriental Trading.
  • Add a bit about worry stones to your sermon. This is optional, of course, but it may increase the connection. Be creative. Go where God invites.
  • And, as it helps, here are some words for Invitation to the Offering:

Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Jesus asks us before inviting us to consider the lilies. Like Martha, we are too worried and distracted to understand these words. Still, we give our gifts. We offer our praise even when our worries outweigh our hope. And so today, give as you receive. Take a worry stone from the plate as you give your offering. Hold onto this stone whenever you might worry and always remember to listen. 

Please share pictures of your worry stones or share with us how you are adapting this recipe for your ministry in the comments below.

The Stewardship of Eating

I have met people – ok, just one person comes to mind – who don’t like to eat. I am not one of those people. Food is to be savor end and enjoyed. It inspires conversation and gives space at the table for connection. I don’t understand what is not to be enjoyed any better than I can understand it as a simple biological function. No, to me, eating is as close as I can get to God.

With that holy awareness comes lots of responsibility. The church that I’m serving as interim pastor just spent the last several weeks rolling and dipping peanut butter and coconut filled chocolate eggs. Today was pick up day. It was the day that all of the orders were filled and the hard work of selling these eggs to friends and family begins. For, you see, it’s also their biggest fundraiser of the year. I watched in coffee hour as orders were piled. I noted some overwhelming preference for the peanut butter filled and then I went into the kitchen to try to get a few for myself. I had somehow failed to place an order and I was feeling guilty. Guilt, as you know, is an awesome motivator for holy observance. So I was ready to spend my money on the ministry of this church except that I didn’t actually want the eggs.

Two weeks ago, I happily wolfed down two boxes of Girl Scout cookies. (I had help.) But, as the wedding gets closer and closer, I’m making better decisions about what I eat. I don’t like that my upcoming wedding has made me into the most vain person alive but resistance seems futile. So, I stopped myself from buying the eggs. There are other ways that I can contribute to the ministry of this church. I can practice stewardship in so many other ways.

Stewardship is really all about making choices to savor and uphold what matters most. It is a practice that starts at the table. This week, the weather is going to be off-the-charts beautiful. It’s going to be in the 70s and the sun is going to be shining and I want more than anything for one of our local farmers markets to open. But, I have to wait another six weeks and it is agony! It is not only because I miss the produce but that I don’t know how to practice my faith at the table when I can’t get local produce. I do not believe the signs at the supermarket. I want to support my farmers directly. I want to be connected to their work and their love. It is part of what makes eating so holy for me. It’s a practice I began around the same time that Barbara Kingsolver wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in which her husband Steven Hopp expresses the stewardship in my heart:

“If you’re picturing Farmer Juan and his family gratefully wiping sweat from their brows when you buy that Ecuadorian banana, picture this instead: the CEO of Dole Inc. in his air-conditioned office in Westlake Village, California. He’s worth $1.4 billion; Juan gets about $6 a day. Much money is made in the global reshuffling of food, but the main beneficiaries are processors, brokers, shippers, supermakets, and oil companies.”

I want my money and my life to support Farmer Juan, not the corporations. I want to build up God’s people with love. But, in this place, there are no alternatives to the summer farmers markets. It baffles and frustrates me but I try to keep the faith and hold onto my holy practice as best I can.

So, I’m furiously googling to see if there might be some slim chance that there is a farm on the way to my meetings this week. No such luck yet so I’m off to the grocery store today. Last week, I brought this delicious salad to share with an old friend who just had a baby. It was so good. I want to eat it all of the time. Because the weather is suppose to be nice, I am hoping my beloved might be willing to grill. I pulled our Bon Appetit Grilling Guide from last summer off the shelf and found this recipe in its pages. My beloved has been hankering for some Korean BBQ so this should be perfect. We will enjoy this on the side. The weather also makes me want to eat a ton of salads so we’ll be enjoy this one and this one this week. I also have a hankering for hummus so I’ll be making this delicious hummus that is all the rage. We’ll enjoy it with this.

I don’t feel like I’m at my best in practicing stewardship but I’m trying. I still eat bananas but I’m trying. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the practice to which I aspire, but I’m trying. That has to be enough for today. How do you practice a stewardship of eating?