Monday, June 25, 2012

Stammering Forth:Salad with Avocado Dressing

"...and in the meantime, this side of Paradise, it is our speak with our heart...and to bear witness to, and live out of, and live toward, and live by, the true word of his holy story as it seeks to stammer itself forth through the holy stories of us all." Frederick Buechner

Cooking alongside someone lends itself to sharing stories. You read, question, laugh, bump elbows and reflect as you seek to create something out of the avocado, the garlic clove, and the olive oil. Recently as we launched into a brand new recipe, my daughter Amber asked, "What if this turns out to be awful?" I said, "That's okay, what if it does? That's just part of the experience." As we are trying a new recipe we often speak our memories of times past in the kitchen, both the culinary mishaps and the flavorful masterpieces. However, when I answered this particular question last week, I knew and perhaps she did too, that I wasn't just talking about cooking.

It's a mystery but cooking and sharing stories helps me to stammer out what I believe in, regret, hope for, and love. The firmness of the wood floor, the coarseness of countertop and the smoothness of the heavy wooden spoon grounds my senses and brings me to the present. Attention is required as well as the ability to let go of the outcome. When I share the kitchen experience with friends and family, I find myself speaking with my heart and bearing witness to the much-larger-than-me holy story that wants to find its home in the world. I find myself listening to the stories of others who enter the space. Sometimes we stammer, sometimes we flow but a warm and cozy kitchen with wafting fragrances provides a space where we realize what needs to be said. We are, all of us it seems,seeking to speak with our hearts and make sense of our crazy holy stories.

This effort, the latest from my treasured collaboration with daughter Amber, didn't turn out awful. In fact, it was very good. The dressing needed more kick though because I added the spices and I ALWAYS tend to be too skimpy with them. I need to follow the example of my more adventurous daughter and toss them out with a generous hand. When we were eating and evaluating, I admitted this. "Mom," she sighed, "you're such a Mennonite."

The dressing is creamy and rich and pours like little waterfalls over the greens. The crisp bacon on the top was a wonderful addition. It is a great summer salad!

Salad with Avocado Dressing
4 small very ripe avocados
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup fat free half and half
1 T grated onion
1 dash (a big dash) cayenne
1 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 T lemon juice

mixed greens or romaine
grilled chicken pieces (I used leftover grilled chicken that I had marinated with southwestern spices)
strips of crisp bacon

Layer each plate with greens and chicken pieces.
Pour dressing over the salad and lay bacon strips on top.

Stammer forth and spice liberally,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Good Life: Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry

Since losing my dad a couple of months ago, I have thought often of the lessons I learned from him over the years and most particularly those last days in the nursing care facility. We all knew he was dying and we had the gift of time to express our gratitude for the life we'd shared. Several times over those last weeks he'd say, "I've had a good life," without smile or frown, close his eyes and lay his head back in rest.

Struggle was a theme of my dad's life. He struggled with being an orphan, he struggled with depression at times, and he struggled because he was a visionary, called to do different things in different ways. It wasn't always easy or understood but he kept creating new paths in and to the Kingdom. To hear him say at the end that he'd had a good life was a wonderful thing because for most of my life, I was aware of him being a bit restless in his wrestling with his life's call. There was joy, humor, and love always but often this sense of restlessness as well. To see the knowing expression and to hear the words "I've had a good life" brought me comfort.

I've wondered what it is that makes a "good life" and I sense that it is different for everyone. In mourning the loss of my father and concurrently celebrating his life, I have attempted to illuminate those things that made his a "good life". I have felt that his life fully lived and his death so closely observed shouldn't go by without reflection and even transformation. In my own definition of a "good life" we are given experiences to learn about truth and beauty and having a front row seat to so much of his life and to his passing gives me much to ponder.

Two things I came upon, written in his own hand, lead me close to understanding his thoughts on a good life:

On a small card, sitting on his desk, these words:
"Each one of us has an irrevocable vocation to be in Christ, and the Christ that I am supposed to be is irreplaceable. It has to be my vision of Christ and, if I do not fulfill that, there is going to be something missing forever and forever in the Kingdom of Heaven, and each of us know this and feels this. " Thomas Merton

And tucked in the back of a book, this quote from Peter Kreeft,
"Saints reproduce themselves simply be being who they are."

A good life? Learning who we are to be, in Christ, and courageously being that each day until we are no longer on this earth.

....And now something good to sustain you on the journey:

Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry

3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 pound chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 tbsp canola oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 green onions cut into small pieces
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces

In a glass dish, stir together soy sauce, lemon juice and zest, and cornstarch. Add chicken pieces and coat well with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic and fry until softened. Reserving the marinade, add chicken followed by the onions, asparagus and carrots. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink.

Add marinade and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Serve over brown rice.

Lifting my glass to the good life,