Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Goals

I used to be anti-New Year’s Resolutions because I thought it was silly that one day was better than any other for setting goals, especially when most of us have spent the last 5-6 weeks overindulging in sweets, heavy food, and alcohol. But then I got really into goal-setting, and I realized that it wasn’t that people set their goals in the heat of the moment but that they weren’t setting goals in a way that was conducive to their achievement. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. It’s the difference between saying that you’re going to lose ten pounds before the summer and just saying that you’re going to lose weight. With that in mind, here are a few of my goals for 2012.


1. Train for and run a marathon.

I’m registered for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati on May 6th. My real goal is to achieve the above without getting injured, dying, or hating running. If I can do that, I might decide to do another one in the fall.


2. Do more leisure reading.

I’m finished with graduate school when I really only had time for leisure reading on breaks or during the summer, and my to-read list is getting ridiculous. I used to consistently read before going to bed, and I would like to get back into doing that. Joe gave me Tina Fey’s Bossypants for Christmas, and I recently purchased The Paris Wife. I’m not going to be shooting for a number of books to read in the next year, but you can follow me on Goodreads!


3. Work on the house

We’ve lived here for 2.5 years now, and there are quite a few things we’ve been neglecting – closets that have never been organized and rooms that don’t feel quite “finished”. We’re at the point that we’ve graduated from some of our starter electronics and furniture but haven’t gotten rid of the old stuff yet. Extra IKEA bookcases anyone? So this year I would like to de-clutter and re-organize, namely the bedrooms, bathrooms, and their closets. In an ideal world, it would also be the year that we replace the kitchen floor and countertops, but that’s a stretch goal.

4. Make meal plans and stick to them.

Now that I work a normal person schedule (plus some), I don’t go grocery shopping on Thursday mornings anymore. It’s also been all too tempting to pick up take-out after a long tough day or when I hit the gym after work. If I don’t have food in the house, and I’m feeling lazy, guess what happens. I would like to work towards eating out no more than 3 times a week. We like eating out, but we’ve spent way too much money on mediocre food lately. Hopefully this will also lead to more blogging than I did in 2011!

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5. Get down to my happy weight and stay there.

I was within five pounds in early December. It doesn’t seem like much, but on my 5’2” frame, every little bit helps. It would seem like training for a marathon would take care of this, but I get ravenously hungry when I’m training. Now I know that smaller, more frequent meals on long run days are better for me than just eating everything in sight, I will try to curb the run-ger. Eating at home and cutting out extraneous alcoholic beverages throughout the week will also help.

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: A Summary

It was a year, a very busy year, though not so much on the food front.



Our travel this year was almost entirely contained to the Southeastern United States. In March, we went to Fort Lauderdale (thank you, free Southwest flight) where we had a great time. In November, we visited some of Joe’s family in St. Augustine and took a side trip to Universal Studios in Orlando. We’ve grown to really enjoy Florida since it’s so easy to get to and affordable for a quick vacation.


We also took a few weekend trips to explore Chattanooga and Atlanta and a short trip to the Knoxville area, including Smoky Mountain National Park, for a friend’s wedding.

Big Events:

In May, I graduated with my Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University.


It was a culmination of three long-but-short years of 84 credit hours, interminable paper-writing, and learning how to speed-read incredibly dense texts. It wasn’t always enjoyable, but I’m a better person for receiving that degree.

Then, about a month later, I was ordained as a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church.


Now I’m doing a chaplaincy residency program (CPE) and serving as a youth minister at a great parish. After 5+ years in the discernment process and in seminary, it feels so surreal to actually be ministering as my full-time job. I’m crazy busy but so grateful and blessed to get to do what I love.


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2011 was a great year of running for me. It was also my first full calendar year of consistent running. I ran 3 half marathons, 3 10Ks, and a handful of 5Ks. I PR’d at every distance I raced and ran over 1000 miles this year, a goal I had set last year to keep me consistent and motivated. I was an official blogger for Women’s Half Marathon, and only suffered a few minor aches and pains.


Next year, I hope to complete my first marathon and continue to improve and get stronger. Another goal is to keep off the 10 lbs I lost this fall and lose another 5 to be at my happy weight.



I ate it. Occasionally, I made it. Some of my favorites that I’ve blogged from the past year:
Baked Eggs in Mushrooms with Squash Ragout
The Perfect Veggie Burger
Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash
Perfect Party Cake

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2012 that’s just as delicious and joy-filled as this year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Joy

I survived and even enjoyed my first Christmas Eve and Day as clergy! The weather was perfect, and there weren’t even any disasters for my first year. Joe insisted on taking my picture before I headed off to my first service because he thought I looked pretty. Note the coffee mug in hand.

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The church looked gorgeous. The music was perfect. And I received wine, chocolate, and sticky buns from several parishioners. I was completely unprepared for how generous everyone would be. It was much appreciated. My normal role is to read the gospel lesson, which on Christmas is, of course, the nativity story. It was a very special moment for me to read the nativity story for the congregation.

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The hardest transition was waking up the next morning to go into the hospital to do two services. They weren’t as well-attended as I would’ve hoped, but there was a higher percentage of staff than usually attend and my homily was well-received. One of the nice things about doing those services is having some freedom and getting to do what I want, like read Luke’s nativity story from the King James version. Saying the shepherds were “sore afraid” rather than “terrified” just feels right. After four services in 20 hours, I was ready to get home, hang out with Joe, and open some presents.

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I got a lot of GU Chomps. Training for the Flying Pig Marathon starts just after the first of the year. That many Chomps will probably last me for five marathon training cycles. I will never go hungry on a run again.


By far, this was the best present given or received this Christmas. Joe and I had been pondering upgrading the cat condo but never pulled the trigger. While we were at Costco for some last minute shopping, we saw some that were a really great deal. The only problem was fitting a 6’ tall cat condo into my Ford Focus. Not happening. My introvert of a husband announced that he was going to wander the parking lot and ask people with trucks or SUVs if they wouldn’t mind hauling it a couple of miles home for us. Sure enough, the first couple that he asked was more than happy to help us out and wouldn’t even let us give them a little cash for their trouble. I couldn’t believe it! The cats were thrilled with their Christmas present and have been playing King of the Mountain with the top compartment ever since.


Joe took care of the turkey that Vanderbilt gave us by injecting it with a Cajun marinade and doing a BBQ dry rub on the outside. I made blue cheese mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and my mom/grandma’s cranberry salad. I did not photograph a darn thing. Not even the leftovers. A fellow working-on-Christmas chaplain came over for dinner, and we were having too much darn fun drinking wine and chatting. So it was and continues to be a good Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

And happy holidays from Cook, Pray, Love – brought to you by Instagram.

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Christmas tree at Children’s Hospital.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angel gave the sign.
(Christina Rosetti)

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Our moderately pathetic Christmas tree

He came down to earth from Heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.
(Cecil F. Alexander)

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Christmas card display

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
(Joseph Mohr)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lentil Tacos

When I read other food blogs around this time of year, I’m impressed and over-awed at the cookies and marshmallows and feasts that people crank out. I haven’t done much of anything for the holidays yet. We did get the (cheap, horrible-looking) fake tree put up and decorated, and a few of the nativity scenes arranged around the house, at least until the cats start playing with poor Joseph. Joseph always gets the short end of the stick.

Truth be told, I’m having a little trouble adjusting from my previous mindset of holiday = vacation to my current life of holiday = holy day = work. I’m on-call at the hospital Christmas and New Year’s weekends, and I’m serving at two Christmas Eve services Saturday night only to wake up the next morning and do Christmas morning services at the hospitals.

At first I was bummed. No sleeping in and cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning before opening presents. But I’m starting to come around. I get to celebrate Christmas with staff and families and perhaps some patients who would rather be somewhere else. I get to bring Christmas and some sense of normalcy to them. I get to be at a pediatrics hospital on Christmas morning with all of the festivity and donated presents that entails. So my Christmas won’t look like my previous Christmases, and my Christmas probably won’t look like your Christmas, but I think I’ll still get all of the joy and wonder. I’ll just have to relax on another day.

So this is not a Christmas meal. This is an anytime meal. Joe particularly liked this, I would guess due to the meaty texture of the lentils. The flavors are spot on, and the raisins add a hint of sweetness. If you don’t have any raisins, a tablespoon or so of brown sugar might also do the trick.


Lentil Tacos
serves 4
source: Runner’s World


1 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup brown lentils, dry
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup water or vegetable broth (I had to add more liquid.)
3 tablespoons dried black currants or raisins, minced
1 cup salsa, plus additional for topping
8 6-inch corn or flour tortillas
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)


In a large frying pan over medium heat, saute onions, celery, and garlic in the olive oil for five minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in the lentils, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook for one minute. Add the broth and raisins. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (add more water or broth as needed). Remove the lid and cook an additional 10 minutes (until lentils are thick), stirring often. Fold in the salsa. Wrap the tortillas in a damp white cotton towel and microwave on high for one minute. Spoon the lentil mixture among the tortillas. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Cheddar Bread Pudding

I’d never actually made bread pudding before this savory version, even though a sweet, boozy bread pudding studded with raisins is one of my all-time favorite desserts. It’s rare that I have leftover bread of any kind, so it felt strange to buy a baguette with the explicit purpose of letting it get stale. Definitely worth it though.

Being a mostly meatless type, I offered to bring a vegetarian entrée to Thanksgiving, letting our marvelous hostess off the hook. While it isn’t even close to vegan or low-calorie, I think I would much prefer this to a Tofurkey. Everyone knows that the sides are the best part of Thanksgiving anyway. And the kale and squash at least gives the illusion of getting in some real vegetables.

My one tip would be to use the sharpest, best cheddar cheese you can find/afford. I skimped on that, and it just wasn’t as good as I know that it could’ve been. Another bonus: this can be made in advance and is probably even best made in advance. I spent nearly a week taking the leftovers for lunch, and it only got better as the flavors melded. Perfect for when your Thanksgiving morning is routinely taken up by running a 5K with your family.


Butternut Squash, Kale, and Cheddar Bread Pudding
source: Ezra Pound Cake




  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash and 1 tablespoon oil in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Spread out squash cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  3. Whisk eggs in large bowl. Continue whisking as you add half and half, wine, thyme, sage, mustard, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add baguette cubes to the egg mixture, and gently fold them into the mixture to coat each side. Let the baguette pieces soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes, and sauté until soft and fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover the pot, and stir until kale is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes (the kale will still be a little crunchy).
  5. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer half of bread from egg mixture to the dish, spreading evenly. Spoon half of kale over the bread layer. Spoon half of squash over the kale layer, and sprinkle it with half of the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, kale, squash, and cheese. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread pudding.
  6. Cover bread pudding with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until custard is set, about 20 minutes longer.
  7. Preheat broiler; broil pudding until cheese browns slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and serve.