23 December 2006


21 December 2006

bloggy milestone!

I now have 100 posts!

erm... plus 1 :)

what's cooking: cranberry pistachio biscotti

Steve made these last Saturday. (I helped! It turns out that shelling pistachios is a decent study break.) I loved having a few straight from the oven, although they don't fully harden until cool. Which, actually, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Biscotti are great with coffee, lattes, steamed milk, hot chocolate, or tea (especially if you take milk), but as a solo flyer, they're not ideal. Biscotti is plural, and comes from the process used to bake these cookies: they're baked twice to give them that hard, crunchy texture.

Although we had a few (pretty much just me, since someone doesn't like biscotti), most of these went to friends and family as a Christmas gift. They're especially good for mailing or handing out over several days, since their double-baked texture gives them a longer shelf life than most homemade cookies.

Comments on the recipe: if you make the loaves as described, you end up with very small cookies. This is fine if you like them that way, but our oven is small and we ended up with larger loaves. As a consequence, we only had 2 dozen cookies rather than 4. I would suggest that you lengthen the cooking time for larger loaves; ours weren't quite as done in the middle as they should have been, but they came through the second bake just fine, except for a slight difference in texture along the top.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti (from The Gourmet Cookbook)
About 4 dozen

1⅓ c dried cranberries (4 oz)
2 ½ c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c shelled salted natural pistachios (not dyed red, 5 oz)
1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water, for egg wash

Soak cranberries in boiling water to cover in a small bowl until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, then pat dry with paper towels.

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a large baking sheet, knocking off excess flour.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed just until a dough forms. Add cranberries and pistachios and mix at low speed.

Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead several times. Halve dough. Using floured hands, form each half into a slightly flattened 13x2-inch log on baking sheet, spacing logs about 3 inches apart. Brush logs with egg wash.

Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet on a rack for 10 minutes, leaving oven on.

Transfer logs to a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut diagonally into ½-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices cut side down in one layer on a baking sheet (it’s fine if slices are touching). Bake, turning once, until golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer biscotti to a rack to cool.


The biscotti keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Biscotti logs resting

what's cooking:
tall and fluffy buttermilk biscuits

We made these last Friday morning... and then again Saturday morning! Cook's Illustrated might call them tall and fluffy buttermilk biscuits, but I call them the Best Biscuits Ever! Deliciously tangy, tender and pretty much everything you might dream of. The tops were wonderfully crunchy and crisp, and since it's made in a pie pan, the ones on the outside have extra crunch, for those who especially like it.

I have to locate the issue with the recipe, but I'll put it up soon. In the meantime, a picture to whet your appetite:

what's cooking: beef stew & colcannon

He Who Cooks made this last week - and it was fantastic! Just right for when the weather (finally) got a bit crisper. The broth from the beef stew was "gravy" for the colcannon, but it was best with a bit of everything on the fork! I yielded -- I'm normally a sequential eater [notice the careful placement of colcannon to the side of the plate? HWC put his on the bottom, a clear sign of a mixed eater].

I have to find out from HWC which book the stew recipe came from, but the colcannon is from The Gourmet Cookbook, which I recommend checking out from the library or buying outright. It's a comprehensive, but not full of standards and basics. I checked it out from the public library during my holiday after college graduation and typed up all the recipes I liked. I know, OCD. But look at the results!

I love colcannon and pretty much every variation on mashed potatoes. This is great if you've got veggi-phobic kids or picky eaters. Cabbage is a fantastic nutritional addition: in this colcannon, it packs in 50% of an adult's vitamin C for the day. And, because it's cooked in the milk and won't be drained, the nutrients aren't thrown out with the cooking water. The cabbagy smell and taste are reduced because of mixing with mashed potatoes, so if pungent scents are off-putting, this is also a good option - doubly so if you add in some beef stew!

Colcannon (Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage), from The Gourmet Cookbook
Serves 4 to 6

2 lbs russet potatoes
1 c whole milk
8 tbs unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 lb green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. Combine with cold salted water (1 tablespoon salt for every 4 quarts water) to cover by 1 inch in a 5-quart pot, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine milk, butter, cabbage, salt, and pepper in a 3-quart heavy saucepan, bring to a bare simmer, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes well, then add to cabbage mixture and mash with a potato masher and fork until well combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


To make champ, substitute 2 cups chopped scallion greens for the cabbage. Add to the3-quart saucepan and proceed as directed.

Additional variation: Substitute 1½ lbs leeks for cabbage. Cut off the dark green tops and trim the root ends, then halve the leeks lengthwise and chop. Wash well in a bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain. Add to the pan in place of cabbage and proceed as directed.

20 December 2006

I am done!

I have one more paper (NT exegesis) due January 12th, but I am not going to even think about it until January 3rd at the earliest. Absolutely not.

No classwork will go with me to Milwaukee, where I will be Christmas-ing with Second Family. I will allow myself to take a few books, but they will be things I am interested in reading and haven't gotten to.

Other things to do: Ember Day letter to Bishop and Home Congregation committee. Organize notes and materials from last semester and this one. Gather all things needed for candidacy consideration. Review current year finances and begin planning new fiscal year budget. Clean house (an organizational bonanza). Organize recipes for more cooking fun.

Most importantly: rest.

But first, I am going out with my girls!

12 December 2006

to do list

By December 20, I must complete:
  • paper on Job (due 12/12)
  • paper on the historical Jesus (12/15)
  • paper on contemporary Anglicanism (12/18)
  • paper on Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer (12/20)
  • take home final on liturgy (12/20)
It's going to be crazy. Watch this space for progress.

*There will be no posting until after Dec. 20 unless I complete my work early (ha!). If I post anything other than updates, smack me.*

10 December 2006

sunday night football

I never thought I would enjoy watching football. I had a serious antipathy towards it, on principle. Or, more probably, because I grew up in places where love for football was only rivaled by adherence to evangelical Christianity.

I am, by nature, a rather contrary creature. If everyone is flocking to this one particular wonderful thing, I am likely to reject it. Until proven wrong. Or until wooed.

I barely tolerated football last year, when I first had to face the realities of living with a boy. I made a firm rule: only ONE football game per weekend. And only on mute.

Except then it grew on me. Like a mold.

Let's recap this weekend: Saturday was a bit boring because the regular college season is over. We did find a semi-final 1AA game, so we watched that. Then today we watched two NFL games. A few weekends ago, there were a few days where we watched something like 6 or 7 games in three days.

What on EARTH has happened to me. I mean really. I watch football even when I don't have to, when I'm home alone. I watch football voluntarily.

weekend baking: biscuits

Well! We've had our second weekend of baking in a row, and it was supremely tasty! I must preface the rest of this post by saying that there were TWO rounds of biscuits. So don't stop reading or ogling prematurely.

Saturday's biscuits were not satisfactory to the cook: they tasted great, but they were wretched to work with. The dough (I'm told) was very sticky and completely impossible to roll and then form rounds with biscuit cutters. They were also not particularly flaky, so if you like your biscuits to flake apart ... well, these are not for you. These are English muffin biscuits; you can only open them with the careful application of a fork. They were, however, tasty.

Now, you might think we would stop there. I mean, who makes biscuits twice in one weekend? That would be us.

Ahem. I have been instructed to inform you that I had nothing to do with the biscuits until I ate them. Steve made biscuits twice in one weekend.

He was much happier with the second recipe, which was easier to work with and provided satisfyingly round, regular biscuits.

Tender, flaky biscuits. Perhaps a little too much salt/baking soda/baking powder. Steve claims there was a weird bitter aftertaste. I couldn't taste it, myself, but I also happen to love brussel sprouts, so maybe my bitter tastebuds are no longer functional. We might try again with a different ratio of salt/baking soda/baking powder, but that can cause funny things to happen in baking.

via Tyler Florence / Food Network

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk, plus additional for brushing

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add 1 cup buttermilk. Using your hands, quickly fold the dry ingredients into the buttermilk until a sticky dough forms. You may need to add more buttermilk.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Gently fold the dough over itself 3 or 4 times to create layers. Press the dough out to 1 1/2-inches thick and cut with a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter. Lay the biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with buttermilk. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until risen and golden brown.

And, yes, I eat my biscuits topped with unsalted butter, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Even when they come out of a vacuum sealed can. These did not come from such a can, and so this is the only picture of the biscuits, ready-to-eat, according to Jen protocols:

09 December 2006

blogger beta?

apparently, I'm now invited to join the new beta version of blogger. I'm not sure I want to.. I haven't heard anything through the grapevine of whether this is good or bad. Sure, there are new features, but are they worth the possible disruption? Any words of wisdom, bloggy friends?

03 December 2006

(my) liturgical traditions

I am a self-professed churchy geek.

One of the ways this is manifestly apparent is my love for the new church year and the opportunity that the liturgical seasons offer for doing new things in my life. I have a couple of traditions around the liturgical seasons that I thought I'd share.

The first (and one of my very favorites) is a variation on an old elementary school thing, I think. I write a letter to myself at the beginning or ending of a liturgical season or a particular time in my life. Then I seal it up in an envelope with my name on it. And I hide it. I tend to find these at the oddest times, since I've usually forgotten all about them, but it's always a pleasure to hear my own wisdom from the past in the present.

I also like to make resolutions. This is kind of like Lenten practices, but it isn't always about sacrifice. It's also kind of like New Years Resolutions, but I'm often overly ambitious with those -- I've given up entirely on them now, because they're pointless (to me). I still haven't accomplished the things I wrote down at 13! (which, to be fair, included learning about 7 languages, most of them wildly obscure)

My liturgical season resolutions tend to be more about process and developing good practices than about accomplishing 10 things as fast as possible. I've been toying with what I might do this Advent. I'm really tempted to commit to the daily office in a new and vigorous way. But I also know that I have so much on my plate right now, and such a hard time fitting everything in, that adding yet another commitment might not be what is best for me.

Perhaps I can use the time I have in more effective ways. I've been sufficiently burnt out from both ends and exhausted that I haven't been doing so. That is a dangerous cycle, because I end up farther behind, feeling guilty, desperately trying to catch up and wistfully thinking of January.

So: my Advent commitment is to use my time effectively: for rest, for studies, for relationships, for keeping Sabbath, for prayer, for God. I might get around to that daily office thing, but that will be my reward for spending time well, not another burden.

And while I'm confessing, I just want to record a few things I should do more of, because I enjoy them and I don't do them enough: dates with my husband, writing letters to friends, walks in the outdoors, talking to my Dad and Jennifer, talking/writing to my sister, visiting museums, baking scones and other delights, feeding "my" squirrels.

advent sunday sermon

Texts: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Psalm 50:1-6, Luke 21:25-31

I don’t have many memories of Advent from my childhood. I can remember preparing for Christmas, but it didn’t have much to do with God. We would spend hours during the weeks before on decorating the house, putting up a tree and loading it down with ornaments. Advent was just how we got to Christmas, where the good stuff happened.

In actuality, Advent is a season of preparation, in which we anticipate not only the birth of Jesus, but also – and more importantly – the expected coming of Christ and the kingdom of God. Advent is how we get to the ‘good news.’ We already know the story of Jesus of Nazareth and the course of his life, ministry, and death. But we are also watching and waiting for the story that is yet unfolding. The story of Jesus’ journey from humble beginnings to Easter morning is only the opening salvo. God isn’t through with us, and that is what Jesus tells us in the reading from the gospel of Luke.

Jesus tells of the signs in the cosmos and of the distress of the earth that would portend the coming of the Son of Man. He is speaking of an event so momentous that both the physical and social worlds react. But catastrophic events were not a distant possibility for the early Christian community. At the time when the gospels were being written, catastrophe was a present reality. The Roman armies held siege to Jerusalem, surrounding the city with three legions on the west and another to the east. After six months, they had seized Jerusalem, destroyed the city, burned the Temple, and decimated the Jewish population.

The apocalyptic passages in Luke were good news to the followers of Jesus, then and now. They speak to the teleos – the end – that the world is moving inexorably toward, and this end is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not a physical territory in the way we think of kingdoms. It does not have a geographic location with boundaries, a flag, coat of arms and currency. It is, instead, a radical experience of the world in which God lies at the center. Because of this radical reorientation, we are brought into right relationship with one another, with the world, and with God.

The kingdom of God is already inaugurated, brought into being at the incarnation of Christ in Jesus. It is already among us, but it is also not yet fully realized. The signs in the stars and moon and in the very earth itself were a way of knowing that the end was in sight. At the same time, Jesus warns us of the limitations of our knowledge, for ‘about that day and hour no one knows’ (Matthew 24:36). No one knows what the future holds. We can look for signs and watch carefully to discern what might lie ahead, but we should always be prepared.

There is a danger, though, in imagining that one day – perhaps far off, or perhaps tomorrow – God will swoop in and bring the world to an end. The temptation is to let go of attachments to this world and just wait for the beginning of the end. The temptation is to wait, passively, for God to show up and make everything new. That is not what Jesus asks of us.

Instead, we are called to watch, attentive to the signs and promises of hope, without neglecting the troubles of the world. We are called to live as citizens of God’s kingdom, not in a distant, imagined future, but here and now. We are called to be disciples.

For Luke, one is not a disciple alone. Discipleship means living in community in a manner consistent with God’s intentions for human kind. Discipleship is a way of life that isn’t limited an hour on Sunday or a personal, private relationship with God. It is deeply transformative and affects every aspect of life.

Discipleship is fundamentally relational: love for one another is the hallmark of Jesus’s disciples (John 13:35). It is this vision for the community of Christ that lies at the heart of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians: ‘may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

We respond to the call of Jesus Christ, in the same way that the cosmos and the physical world respond to the coming of Christ: it affects our very being, it is not easy, it is both a burden and a great joy.

These apocalyptic texts envision what Creation's true end is, what God intends for this world: the redemption for which the world groans is found in Jesus Christ, not simply in the events of his birth, but also in his anticipated return.

But in preparing for the full realization of the kingdom of God, we cannot forget our obligations to one another. We are the people of God, whose intentions for the world were shown forth in life of Jesus Christ. We are participants in God’s kingdom, not tomorrow, not in the day and hour that are yet to come, but today. How might we answer the call to discipleship today? What does the Lord require of us, ‘but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?’ (Micah 6:8)

When we are consumed by the desperate circumstances of the world – the enormous disasters and the commonplace travesties – Jesus prompts us to think of the fig tree. The fig tree is among the last to bloom in Palestine. Its blooming serves to remind us that the end is near, that there is an abiding hope for a future in which God brings all things into harmony with one another and with their creator, that the hour of redemption is at hand.

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
Do justice, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.” (The Talmud)

We are an integral and essential part of what God is up to in the world. In Advent we remember that God enters the world in unexpected and wonderful ways in order to bring creation to its fulfillment. We are not free to abandon the work of the kingdom, but we know that its completion lies in the hands of God.


what's cooking: no-knead bread

This is our first baking weekend! And our first loaf of bread!

I'm a fan of the process (easy) and the tender, tasty insides of the loaf. It had a good inner texture, with loads of bubbles for melting butter. I didn't like the crust we did (entirely coated with corn meal). It was a little too crunchy for me, and I think the insides were so good that we'll want a different shaped pan for baking. Our loaf was very flat, so the ratio was crust-heavy for my taste.

Don't be afraid of the long time for the rise. It requires little to no attention during that time, although we had fun peeking in at our 'baby' to see how it would grow. We were also highly amused by the bubbles as the yeast-ies did thair work.

No-Knead Bread
As appearing in the NYTimes.com, adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

02 December 2006

what's cooking: carnitas

This is one of my favorite new recipes! We had it first for a chaplaincy dinner (Assemble your own Taco Night), and it was a hit. I liked it so much that I demanded a swift encore, and we had it again less than two weeks later.

The carnitas are well seasoned and tender, and the shredded texture works especially well for making tacos and burritos. S. made a smaller amount since it was just the two of us, but the recipe easily expands or contracts depending on how many you need to feed. I personally like iceberg lettuce and fresh tomatoes with my tacos, but you can create any sort of combination you like. We also had homemade guacamole, which added a creamy contrast to the spicy pork and the veggies, but sour cream could fulfill the same function.

I am hoping, though, to find a good way of draining the pork. It's cooked with oil, and that is evident after eating a taco, since it all drains out the tail end. I don't want to end up with very dry carnitas, but I'm hoping for less grease on my plate and in my system.

Recipe from Alaska Cooks