Friday, January 28, 2011

All the Single Lady Pastors

WARNING: There is no food in this post. Feel free to skip it if you’d like. This blog will return to its regularly scheduled programming with some delicious jalapeno cheese bread!


Well, well, well, Marie Claire strikes again. Their interview of a single, 27 year-old pastor of a Methodist church in Huntsville, AL has recently provided fodder for a variety of religion and ministry blogs. In typical fashion, the story is salacious and embarrassing in its intimate details, but as I haven’t read the full content of the story myself, I won’t rehash that here. If you’re interested, you can check out the coverage on Beauty Tips for Ministers and Hacking Christianity.

When I first heard about the story, my blood ran cold. My first thought was, “That could’ve been me.” Or if not me, one of my friends. While I do not know Ms. Miller and her particular gifts and callings, I know a lot of women like her. I do not doubt that, like a lot of the young women I know and go to school with, she is bright and passionate and cares about serving God and God’s creation. Of course, in seminary and divinity school, our love lives are not under the microscope as they are in a congregation.

This could have been me. As most of you know, I am married. Having my sexuality safely contained within the marital covenant makes people a lot more comfortable. But I never really thought I would get married nor did I particularly desire to. I liked my freedom and independence more, until I met Joe. You know, I make plans; God laughs. Before that though, there had been warnings about how difficult it was to date once you were ordained, not just because of the celibacy thing but also because a female authority figure is threatening to a lot of men. A single (heterosexual) friend of mine, while going through the ordination process, received questions about her sexual orientation.


It is hard enough to be a woman pastor. Even in the 21st century, many would still argue that God does not call women to lead, to teach, to preach in God’s church. Well, except for maybe in the context of children’s ministry. The authority question looms large. As I was asked multiple times, “Because you’re young, short, pretty, and female, how are you going to assert your authority?” My authority and Ms. Miller’s authority and all of my future young clergy women friends’ authority comes from listening and responding to God’s call, to God’s claim on our lives to serve God as an ordained minister, whether we’re short, tall, black, white, purple, single, married, male, female, straight, or gay. And while we’re not living in a perfect world (yet), I hope and pray to God that when I’m up there in that pulpit or celebrating the Eucharist at the altar, younger women and girls will see someone who looks like them, and they will know that God loves them and has plans to prosper them. Maybe even someday, when they’re going through their ordination process, no one will even think to question how their gender and physical characteristics will impact the efficacy of their ministry. Amen.

For more information and support of young (20s & 30s) clergy women, go to Fidelia’s Sisters.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

English Muffin Egg Casserole

Y’all, I have got a mean case of the January blues. First of all, I started a new semester and managed to catch senioritis. Struggling through the political philosophy parts of my Ethics class and patristic theologians has sapped my motivation, and I find myself wishing for last semester when I didn’t feel so intellectually incompetent. With graduation and my ordination date in the near future, I’ll admit to checking out a bit.

And the weather. I know others have it way worse than we do here in Nashville, but I am from Texas. 9.3 inches of snow in a winter is just absurd. Not to mention that driving in that with a bunch of other snow-inept Southerners is life-threatening.

On the bright side, my running is going well, and I got a haircut last week. Joe and I went out for Restaurant Week and for his birthday (29!), and my schedule in February is filling up. That’s what I’ve got right now.

I made this breakfast casserole on the morning of one of those crazy days where I went to work then yoga then a haircut and didn’t get home until 8:15. It was totally worth it to take a little bit of time in the morning and come in the door and have had Joe bake the casserole so everything was ready to go. It was a little overdone, but Joe really likes the brown crispy cheese on top. The English muffins add a great texture to the casserole, and you can always throw in whatever vegetables you have languishing in the fridge. To round out the meal, I had a blood orange and kiwi fruit salad. The other nice advantage to eating a breakfast casserole for dinner is that you can also eat the leftovers for breakfast the next morning!


English Muffin Egg Casserole
source: Bakin' and Eggs
Yield 4 servings


3 whole wheat English muffins, halved
3 meatless sausage patties
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup spinach, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
5 eggs
1/3 cup skim milk
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Lots of salt and pepper, to taste


Prepare an 11 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray. Line with English muffin halves and set aside.

Defrost sausages in microwave and crumble. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then add sausage and garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and then stir in chopped spinach and dried basil. Season generously with salt and pepper and then spoon over English muffins.

While mixture is cooling on English muffins, whisk together eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over English muffins and top with cheese. Let rest at least one hour or up to overnight in the fridge.

Remove casserole from fridge while you are preheating oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 40-50 minutes, or until set and cheese is slightly browned.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

I don’t think I have formally introduced my fur children, though I know I have made mention of them before. This:


is Duke Ellington. And this:


is Thelonious Monk.

I lost my bid to name them after Archbishops of Canterbury. I don’t know what I would do without my cats. They bring so much joy into my life and remind me of God’s sense of humor and God’s blessing on all of creation. They cheer me up when I’m feeling sad, and they always seem to curl up with me when they know I’m feeling lonely.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a pet growing up. Going to boarding school and living in the dorms at college were the first (and only) times I had been without an animal for an extended period of time. There is something special about animal companionship. In my mind, there was an unspoken rule that I would never marry someone who couldn’t at least tolerate the presence of animals. People’s love and affection is fickle and fades, but pet companionship is forever.

So, I am dedicating this post to my wonderful cats in honor of Branny’s Charity Souper Bowl. She requested that we blog a soup, and, for each entry, she will donate to the ASPCA.

What better way to honor pets and animals in general than to make a delicious vegan soup without any animal products? This soup was creamy but not heavy, and the addition of rice and chickpeas makes it a hearty and satisfying meal. Between the coconut milk and the curry flavor, this soup had me dreaming of much warmer locales, but then I would have to leave my cats!


Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas
source: Epicurious via Bakin’ and Eggs


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 6 ounces), chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper (about 6 ounces), chopped
  • 1 jalapeƱo chili, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, seeded and peeled, fresh or canned
  • 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup cooked white or brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • Preparation

    In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and chili; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder, salt, and black pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Peanut Noodles with Vegetables

    Every week, I make a menu plan for dinners for the following week. I usually try to do this on Thursday or Friday so that I can do the grocery shopping over the weekend and be prepared for the upcoming week. Sometimes, if I’m feeling uninspired, I ask Joe if he has any requests, and he frequently replies, “Peanut noodles.”

    One of the first recipes I blogged was this Ground Pork with Spicy Peanut Noodles. Ever since then, it has been one of Joe’s most-requested meals. It was also the first meal I made where I realized that I could make food that was just like my favorite restaurants but far healthier and cheaper. Peanut noodles can, however, be a bit of a calorie-bomb, so I entrusted this go-round to Eating Well.

    This was not my favorite variety of peanut noodles taste-wise. It was slightly on the bland side, which was partially my fault for diluting the sauce too much with cooking water. But this meal came together extremely quickly. Joe hardly had time to defrost some grilled chicken to add to his before it was done. Plus, I also usually have everything on hand to make this. So while the taste won’t knock you out of the water, the speed and ease of this dish makes it a valuable addition to the repertoire.


    Peanut Noodles with Vegetables
    source: Eating Well
    Yields 4 servings


    • 1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
    • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce, or to taste
    • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
    • 8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
    • 1 12-16 oz bag frozen vegetable stir-fry medley, such as carrots, broccoli, snow peas


    1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for cooking pasta.
    2. Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, chile-garlic sauce and ginger in a large bowl.
    3. Cook pasta in the boiling water until not quite tender, about 1 minute less than specified in the package directions. Add vegetables and cook until the pasta and vegetables are just tender, 1 minute more. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Rinse the pasta and vegetables with cool water to refresh. Stir the reserved cooking liquid into the peanut sauce; add the pasta, vegetables and chicken; toss well to coat. Serve warm or chilled.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Sonoma County, Part 1: The Wineries

    I am finally going to begin to attack our trip to California wine country, but it took me a while to decide how to do it. Because we visited 22 wineries over 4 days of tasting, a blog entry per day seemed overwhelming and not entirely helpful, so I’m going to divide it up a different way. Today’s post will be dedicated to our favorite wineries that we visited – one per day of wine tasting that we did. My evaluation of these wineries is not solely based on the wine but also on our experience at the winery and the tasting room, scenery, etc. There were previous few wineries where we had even mediocre, let alone bad, experiences, so this is not an easy list to compile.

    Day 1: Michel-Schlumberger

    Unfortunately, we didn’t take any pictures here, but this was, by far, our favorite wine tasting experience of the day. We were welcomed into a beautiful tasting room set up like a restaurant with individual tables. If it had been just slightly warmer, they also have outdoor areas available for tasting. Our pourer was extremely friendly and generous with the pours, and the wines were outstanding. We saw many wine club members come up to taste and pick up their wines, and they obviously had rapport with the staff at the winery. Michel-Schlumberger is an organic producer in Dry Creek Valley, close to Healdsburg. We just stopped in and did a basic tasting, but they also offer a variety of tours. We were all set to join their wine club, but they do not yet ship to Tennessee.

    Day 2: Arista Winery


    I suppose it was a good omen when we pulled into the parking lot at Arista and saw a beautiful rainbow. Fortunately for us, we found the pot of gold at the end of it when we walked into Arista. With a fire blazing in the fireplace and a dog sprawled out on the floor, the tasting room felt incredibly homey. After pouring us our first taste of pinot gris, our pourer, Gabriel, encouraged us to check out the Japanese gardens around the property. The landscaping was stunning with lots of benches and picnic tables spread out for enjoying your wine and food. Given the landscape, it was no surprise that they do a bustling wedding business. It was a little chilly to enjoy our wine outside, so we headed back in by the fire to taste the rest. Arista specializes in pinot noir, and we loved nearly everything we tasted. The atmosphere in the tasting room was convivial, and we talked to several of the other couples. They do not have a wine club but instead offer their wines for sale on a mailing list. The catch? There is a wait to even get on the mailing list! We did sign up for the wait though. Between the wines, the landscape, and the company, Arista was our favorite tasting experience of Day 2.

    Day 3: Stryker Sonoma


    For all of the planning that we had done and the friends we had consulted, sometimes you have to just point at a map and say, “Let’s try this one.” We were interested in hitting up some Alexander Valley wineries after sticking to mostly Dry Creek and Russian River appellations, so we looked at the map, and I picked out Stryker Sonoma based on the little blurb that their building had won accolades for its architecture. Sure enough, the building was beautifully designed with windows in the tasting room that opened right up onto the vineyards. Around this time, I decided it might be a good idea to check in to the wineries we were visiting on Foursquare. Stryker happened to have a deal for a free tasting if you tweeted your check-in. I appreciate social media-savvy companies and have since had further interactions with Stryker on Twitter. Our pourer was very involved and let us try far more than the tastings our free tasting allowed, pouring us wines based on what we had said we liked and didn’t like. Overall, we were very impressed with the wines, the setting, and the attention we were given at Stryker Sonoma.

    Day 4: Paradise Ridge Winery


    After doing some sleuthing online, I chose Paradise Ridge as our first winery of day 4. You can imagine that our palates were a little bit tired at this point, but Yelp reviews told me that Paradise Ridge had beautiful views, and they did not disappoint. Additionally, mentioning Yelp netted us more free tastings! We would drink much better wines later that day, but the overall experience at Paradise Ridge was the best. Like Arista, Paradise Ridge also does a lot of weddings. They were setting up their tasting room for their post-Thanksgiving holiday open house, but our pourer at the bar area was very friendly and knowledgeable, also pouring us additional wines that he thought we would enjoy. Even though it was a bit chilly, the day was clear, and the deck overlooked the vineyards and Santa Rosa, making for great photo ops. Its location, close to Santa Rosa, is also very convenient. Our favorite wines would come later in the day, but the views and service at Paradise Ridge made it worth the visit.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Soy Chorizo and Black Bean Soup

    You know how a lot of people make resolutions or goals at the New Year, and they’re frequently related to losing weight? It makes sense. After gorging myself on treats and cookies and such from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, I’m ready for a few lighter meals. What you might not know is in the year leading up to my wedding, I lost 20 pounds, primarily using Sparkpeople. Sparkpeople is a free website that taught me a lot of things about health and fitness. For example, did you know that exercising is not a free pass to eat anything and everything you want to eat? Because I didn’t. And did you know that a serving of cereal is about a third of a size that I thought one was? Anyway, I went from this in May of 2007:


    To this at our wedding in June 2008:


    But I’ve definitely gained the grad school 15 (hello stress-eating!), and I’d like to get rid of some of it before my ordination to the diaconate in June. I know that I’ll feel healthier, more confident, and that it will make me a better runner. So, I’ve started tracking my calories on Sparkpeople again, and I am doing a bang-up job with my diet eating plan. It’s also a good way for me to make sure I’m getting enough protein now that I’m not eating meat except for seafood. Another component of Operation Skinny Deacon is to stop boozing it up so much (i.e., drinking wine or beer every night with dinner plus some on weekends). That’s a good 5 pounds there plus it’s just a not-that-great habit to be in. I’m also re-training myself with regard to portion size. Do you know how SMALL a 4 oz glass of wine is?

    Anyway, I still get to enjoy delicious dinners like tonight’s soy chorizo and black bean soup. Soy chorizo might be the main thing keeping me pescetarian. It’s pretty darn close to the real thing. I found mine at Trader Joe’s, and while it’s not low-calorie, it’s significantly less greasy than real chorizo. Even Joe went back for seconds of this and offered to take leftovers for lunch. It’s hearty and spicy and makes a bunch if you doubled the recipe like I did. And I enjoyed mine with some seltzer water with lemon, though beer would be a fitting accompaniment as well.


    Soy Chorizo and Black Bean Soup
    source: Cate’s World Kitchen
    Yields 6 to 8 servings

    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 onion, diced
    2 tbsp garlic, minced
    1 yellow bell pepper, diced
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp cumin
    12 ounces Soy Chorizo (or regular if you prefer)
    6 cups black beans, rinsed and drained (about 4 cans)
    4-5 cups vegetable broth
    lime wedges and fresh chopped cilantro, for serving
    crumbled feta or cotija cheese for serving

    Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute until soft. Add the chorizo, salt, and cumin and cook, stirring, another 5-6 minutes.
    Stir in the beans and 4 cups of broth and simmer for about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, pulse a few times (so it’s partly but not completely pureed). Salt to taste, and add more broth if you’d like your soup a little thinner.
    Serve with lime wedges, cheese, and fresh cilantro.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Egyptian Edamame Stew

    Aaaaand I’m back. Went to Texas, passed my ordination exams, attended a friend’s ordination to the priesthood, visited my older brother and my adorable niece, ran 7 miles around Ladybird/Town Lake, and enjoyed some delicious Tex-Mex food, including a fantastic veggie chile relleno. I also failed to take a single picture. I figured that me sitting in a room all day, writing essays and taking oral exams in yoga pants and eating camp food wasn’t that photogenic. I am so glad that I’m back home where I have a little bit more control over my food. Now that I’m eating pescetarian, I need to do better planning for when I travel.

    Today was momentous for several reasons: It marked the beginning of classes of my last semester. It snowed quite a bit overnight. And I started training for the Oak Barrel Half Marathon. Of course, Monday’s schedule is Stretch & Strengthen, so my first half marathon-training workout was Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred plus some extra stretching. A little anti-climactic.

    But the snow had me craving something warm and comforting with just a hint of spice and a lot of vegetable protein. Much to my surprise, this meal was all of that, plus it tasted so light and fresh. I think the lemon juice and cilantro was what really tied everything together and made this special. I doubled the cayenne pepper and served the stew over whole wheat couscous. Let me just say that they don’t serve food like this at Camp Allen.

    How do you deal with limited food choices when you travel?


    Egyptian Edamame Stew
    source: Eating Well
    Yields 4 servings, about 2 cups each


    • 1 1/2 10-ounce packages frozen shelled edamame, (about 3 cups), thawed
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 large zucchini, diced
    • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
    • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, or mint
    • 3 tablespoons lemon juice


    1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add edamame and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.
    2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and cook, covered, until the onions are starting to brown, about 3 minutes more. Add garlic, cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
    3. Stir in the edamame and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in cilantro (or mint) and lemon juice.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

    I hope you all had a lovely New Year’s Eve and start to 2011. I made these cookies to take to a party celebrating Erin’s engagement! Little did she know that it was going to happen until that night. On New Year’s Day, Joe and I had signed up to run the Resolution Run 5K. I needed a race to keep me motivated, even though I knew I probably wouldn’t PR with the staying up late and the drinking more than usual. Add to that drizzle and hills and headwind, and it wasn’t my fastest race, though I’m still pretty happy with how I did. Official chip time: 29:40. My dad ran too, and my mom volunteered. That’s the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the background!


    Some of my friends joke about how crazy my family is since we’re always running on holidays when other people are sleeping in or eating big breakfasts or watching parades, but that’s just how we roll! I spent the rest of the day writing my sermon for my ordination exams. Yep, I’m heading back to Texas for the week to take my ordination exams, visit my niece, and attend my friend’s ordination to the priesthood. I’m kind of nervous and scared but also excited because I’ll get to really see how much I’ve learned over the past two and a half years in divinity school.


    I’ve been travelling a lot, and once I’m back from this trip, I’m looking forward to being home for a while. I miss hanging with my husband and cats, and I know once I get back that the craziness of my last semester of graduate school is going to start up again. Where did my Christmas break go? I promise once I return that I’ll get back to making real food again and not just desserts!

    At least I got some fun baking in. These were the perfect New Year’s treat. The buttery shortbread topped with the peppermint bark was really delicious. I had some problems cutting them, which I think had to do with them being too cold since I chilled it overnight. At room temperature (after chilling to set the chocolate), they’re much softer and easier to cut. This wasn’t too peppermint-y for me, and I actually liked the addition of the peppermints. They look so festive too!


    Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies
    source: Epicurious as seen on Bakin’ and Eggs

    Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 large egg yolk
    6 ounces high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
    1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) finely chopped red-and-white striped hard peppermint candies or candy canes
    2 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with a long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving an overhang on both short sides of pan.

    Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar and continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.

    Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into prepared baking pan, spacing evenly. Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form even layer over bottom of pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.

    Bake cookie base until light golden brown, slightly puffed and edges begin to come away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes. Place pan on wire rack and immediately sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Using a small offset spatula, spread chocolate over top of cookie in a thin even layer. Immediately sprinkle chopped peppermint candies over.

    Stir white chocolate in a medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from water and use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate all over cookies. Chill until white chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

    Grab the paper overhang and lift from pan. Transfer to work surface and using a large knife, cut cookie into irregular pieces.