Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gone Camping

As you read this, I have departed from the urban comforts of home for CAMP! For the next month or so, I’ll be serving as the camp chaplain for an Episcopal camp about 90 miles away, near Sewanee (“on the mountain”).


The next month should hold a lot of adventure, but perhaps not a lot of blogging, particularly food blogging. I won’t abandon you completely though. There is an upcoming post about the two logistical things that baffle me the most about ordination (What do I tell people to call me and what do I wear?), and I have a book giveaway of a book about theology and eating along with a Q&A with the author in the works.


I’ll also be traveling to Houston for my ordination to the transitional diaconate (God willing), so I hope to update you all on that celebration as well.

I’m excited about camp, but I’m also a little nervous. Even though I’m much older, it’s those same feelings that I got when I went to camp as a kid. What if they don’t like me? What if everyone thinks I’m a nerd? What if I get homesick? What if the food is bad? What if I brought all the wrong clothes and everyone makes fun of me?

Of course, it always turned out just fine, even if the food was bad and I did get a little homesick. I still came home with a bunch of memories and new friends.

Were you a “camp” person as a kid?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Strawberry Sorbet

Back to the May swing of things – baby showers, weddings, backyard BBQs, etc. For some strange reason, my graduation day marked a odd cold front. So while my mother-in-law brought tank tops and shorts to wear, it was actually fairly rainy and chilly. All that to say, it made for some interesting fashion choices for the Iroquois Steeplechase.


I love horse races. Well, it’s more like I love the idea of horse races. But the Iroquois Steeplechase is particularly nice. Instead of a dirt track, the steeplechase is English-style on a long grass track with a variety of fences depending on the race. It wasn’t raining enough for us to scrap going to the race, but it also wasn’t sunny, so I braved the drizzle with the help of my pink galoshes. We usually sit in the poor people general admission section, which works out because I like watching the races. The horses are just stunning creatures. Our happy discovery this year was wine in Tetra Pak containers, since you can’t take glass. Each container held about 3 glasses of wine and was perfect for an event like this.

Now it’s warmed back up, and the cicadas are in full swing. This strawberry sorbet is super simple and fresh-tasting. It would be the perfect addition to your Memorial Day cook-out or picnic. I attempted to infuse the simple syrup with basil I had lying around, but it didn’t come through in the final product. Another delicious addition would be some balsamic vinegar. Or it’s just great as it is.


Strawberry Sorbet
source: Joy of Baking


1/3 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 lb fresh or frozen unsweetened strawberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Grand Marnier or other liqueur (to keep it from freezing hard)


Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan, over low heat, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved (about 3-5 minutes). Boil the mixture for one minute then remove from heat. Pour the sugar syrup into a heatproof container, and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled (about an hour or so). 

Meanwhile, thaw the frozen strawberries and then place the thawed strawberries in a food processor and process until the strawberries are pureed. Transfer to a large bowl, add the lemon juice and liqueur (if using), and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled. (If using fresh strawberries, puree the berries in the food processor, transfer to a large bowl, add the lemon juice and liqueur (if using), and place in the refrigerator until chilled.)

Once the simple syrup and pureed strawberries are completely chilled, combine the simple syrup with the pureed strawberries. Transfer the mixture to the chilled container of your ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once made, transfer the sorbet to a chilled container and store in the freezer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kitchen Re-Do on a Dime

(Or at least on a $100 Home Depot gift card, a birthday present, and a generous father)

One of the things that sold us on our condominium was the HUGE kitchen. However, it was also the room that needed the most work. When we moved in, it looked like this:


Hello, weird double-oven from the ‘70s and dark, depressing cabinetry in a windowless kitchen. I was kind of excited about having a double oven, but then it turned out that the top oven didn’t work, so we replaced it with a new oven/stovetop and an over-the-range microwave. My dad insisted on replacing the old, gross, uncovered fluorescent under-cabinet lighting with fancy, bright, shiny, new halogen lighting, though it was slow-going because DIY projects NEVER go exactly the way they are supposed to. He also gave me a fancy, bright, shiny, new sink faucet for my birthday (in October) that needed to be put in.

After staring at our cabinets for almost two years and HATING them while lusting after beautiful bright kitchens with white cabinets, I knew something needed to be done. Turns out, you can paint your cabinets, and what better project to tackle after completing your Master’s degree? Seriously though, I spent three years completely up in my head, physical labor sounded really appealing.

So I took a trip to Home Depot with a $100 gift card that Joe had squirreled away, picked out a shade of white (Behr Premium Plus Moon Rise - almost the most difficult part of this whole project), and bought some paint, drop clothes, and more brushes. I put up painters’ tape, took down all of the cabinet doors and removed all of the hardware, and spread the doors out on a drop cloth in our living room. Bad part about living in a condo? No garage to do projects in.

Meanwhile, my dad finished replacing the lights. I primed and painted the cabinet frames in one day. Here’s what it looked like:


Already looking brighter!

On day 2, Dad installed my fancy new faucet with pull-down sprayer. Again, not as easy as it sounds. The faucet had some weird nut that had partially corroded or something after 40 years. You can kind of see the old one in the picture above. Here’s the new one:


Much higher and more modern! I filled in the holes in our cabinet doors from the old hardware with wood filler. Fortunately, they didn’t require much sanding because they weren’t sealed with any kind of glossy finish. That made life a lot easier. Primed them, painted them, and let them dry. Allegedly, you’re supposed to let them dry for 3-5 days, but I’m impatient and started to hang them the next day.

The finished result:



Hello, gorgeous! I can’t believe this is the same kitchen with relatively little change. Yes, painting the cabinets was a lot of work, but it didn’t require a lot of skill or tools. Neither Joe nor I are very handy, DIY-type people, and he was very nervous about me tackling this project. Fortunately, he was very pleased with the final result! The most tedious part was taking the doors off and putting them back on, which was helped a lot by my Lyle Lovett and Lady Gaga Pandora stations. Also difficult, trying to keep little cat paw prints off of wet paint. But seriously, if I can do this, with a little time and effort, you can too. I absolutely love my new kitchen!

Have you ever tackled a major DIY project? How did it turn out?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Master of Divinity

In May of 2003, I graduated from high school.


In May of 2007, I graduated from Rice University with my Bachelor of Music degree, rocking the pink hood and the Hanszen College stole.


And four years later, on an unseasonably cool and rainy, cicada-infested May 13, 2011, I graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School with my Master of Divinity degree. That red tassel and hood means Theology, and I love the black and gold Vanderbilt colors on the inside of the hood.


I remember when I first started dating Joe and I was nervous about telling him that I felt called to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. Now, we’ve been married for almost 3 years, and I’ve graduated from Divinity School. It’s kind of amazing how quickly three years can fly by, but when I think of all of the papers and sermons written, all of the lectures attended, all of the conversations in the Common Room, all of the friends made, the community worship services planned and attended, the prayers that went up, the test anxiety, the trips back to Texas for my ordination process, the clergy who supported me, I know that it was time well spent. It was a time in my life when the days and weeks seemed to drag at times, but the years went by quickly. The first three years of my marriage, of my time in Nashville, were spent in Divinity School. I started a food blog and bought a house. I spent a summer as a hospice chaplain. I ran two half-marathons. And I took 84 hours worth of credit in 3 years to get this degree.

I can’t believe it’s over, but I think I’m ready to move into ministry, whatever that might look like. This time of intentional academic and spiritual formation is over, even though it will continue for the rest of my life, and I know that God brought Joe and me to Vanderbilt and Nashville, not just for us to receive but also for us to give back. And with that degree in hand, I am ready.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

May is an epic month in terms of social gatherings. I unearthed myself from studying for finals and writing papers and was thrown into a whirlwind of social occasions. Of course, the first Saturday of May is the Kentucky Derby as well as our friend’s wine and cheese tasting party. Appropriately, Joe and I got all decked out for Derby. I had a hat on earlier in the evening but traded it out for a headband when we got to the wine tasting.

Believe me, it feels very good for my extroverted self to see people again. The friends that host the wine tasting party are extremely generous and hospitable, and because we were the last guests to leave, we ended up taking home a few of the 40 (!!!) cheeses he had out for us to taste. All kinds of Swiss cheeses, pecorino romano, and one potent blue cheese came home with us, and I really didn’t need to eat all of it. Joe voted via text for gourmet mac & cheese for dinner, so I opted to adapt Ina Garten’s famous Gourmet Mac & Cheese recipe by eliminating the bacon and using the fancy cheeses I had on hand.

Safe to say, this is one of the richest dishes I’ve ever made. I almost skipped the basil breadcrumb topping, but I’m very glad I didn’t because the crunchy topping further accentuated the creaminess of the mac & cheese. And the basil happened to complement the flavor of the bleu cheese perfectly. I’m very thankful for generous friends, the crazy social whirlwind that is May, and 8 mile runs on hills to help me burn off delicious dishes like this one!


Grown-Up Mac & Cheese
adapted from Ina Garten
Yield 7-8 servings


  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I subbed soy milk with no problem)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces Appenzeller cheese, grated
  • 3 ounces Comte cheese, grated
  • 2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 2 ounces white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the cheeses, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into 7-8 ramekins.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

Occasionally, when I ask Joe if he has any suggestions for dinners for the weekly plan, he does, and because I do spend most of the time making the healthy, well-balanced pescetarian fare that I enjoy, I usually try to indulge him when he has a specific request. This particular dinner was born out of the meal we ate for dinner the night before our half marathon. I ordered spinach and cheese ravioli with a light tomato cream sauce, and ever since then, Joe has been declaring his love for similar sauces.

Cream and massive amounts of carbs for dinner aren’t my usual, so I turned to someone who appears to have an obsession with creamy sauces and carbs: The Pioneer Woman. Even though I removed her from my Google Reader many moons ago, I still return to her site for certain purposes, and she did not disappoint. The sauce came together quickly and easily, though I cut the amount of butter and oil in half. Every little bit helps! And if you stick to the appropriate portion size, there’s only a couple tablespoons of cream per serving. Not bad for the occasional splurge or craving. Not bad at all.


Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Yields 6-8 servings


  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 cans (15 Ounce Each) Tomato Sauce
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • Dash Of Sugar (more To Taste)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • Grated Parmesan Or Romano Cheese, To Taste
  • Fresh Basil, Chopped
  • 1 pound long dried pasta like angel hair or spaghetti


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a minute or so. Pour in tomato sauce and add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Stir and cook over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in cream. Add cheese to taste, then check seasonings. Stir in pasta and chopped basil and serve immediately. (Thin with pasta water before adding basil if needed.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Calypso Black Bean and Rice Salad

This isn’t really a salad. It’s more like nachos with some lettuce. It’s also more assembly than actual cooking, but when you’re eye-deep in books on ancient baptismal homilies, any meal that isn’t take-out is a win in my book. It’s a complete rip-off of my favorite salad at a local chain of restaurants. After debating picking one up on the way home from spin class one night, I realized that I had all of the ingredients on hand to make it myself. It’s also easily scalable, so you can make one or six of these salads, and it’s all the same.

My best friend joked in her wedding toast that I taught her that you can pretty much put salsa on everything or wrap it in a tortilla. Salsa on a salad – case in point. Calypso Café serves their version with a light barbecue sauce for dressing, but between the salsa and sour cream, I don’t find any other dressing necessary. Something about all of the different textures and flavors together makes this a very satisfying dinner salad. You can skip the rice and add chicken or throw on some red onions and tomatoes if you’d like, but don’t skip the tortilla chips. That crunchy layer at the bottom makes it.


Calypso Black Bean and Rice Salad
Inspired by Calypso Café
Yields 2 salads


Tortilla chips
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp Southwest/Mexican seasoning
1 cup cooked brown rice
Shredded cheese
Sour cream


Layer tortilla chips on a plate or the bottom of a bowl. Spread romaine lettuce on top. Top each salad with 1/2 cup of brown rice. Toss black beans with seasoning in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute or until warm. Spread 1/2 of black beans on each salad. Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and salsa to your liking.