Tag Archives: Recipes

Book Review: Bread & Wine, A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes

511z58htsll-_sx340_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, with Recipes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Bread & Wine is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read in the last several years! Shauna shares raw, real life stories mixed with a collection of her favorite recipes. I have literally laughed out loud and bawled my eyes out reading this! I feel like the author is sitting across from me, sharing a cup of coffee and opening up the window to her true self, and it feels like we’ve been friends for a lifetime even though I just met her in these pages. It’s as if you’re reading an intimate journal of an everywoman’s soul, and she says, “Come. Sit. Eat.”

In the author’s note on page 10, she writes the following:

“My prayer is that you’ll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you’ll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it, and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy.

“And more than anything, I pray that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.”

Shauna begins with an explanation of what being a “bread-and-wine person” means: “By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater–mystery and tradition and symbol. … The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and the earth, the divine and the daily” (p. 11).

I am very much a “food” person. I love to cook, to share meals, to host friends and family and strangers, to talk about food and hospitality and life and God. So this book was perfect. The recipes are simple and offer a wide variety of personalization. I could not put this book down! Not only was it beautifully crafted, it was inspirational to get back to sharing food and faith with friends and family.

She talks about her cooking club, a group of friends that met together frequently, cooked together, did life together, laughed together, cried together, prayed together. Even when life and jobs scattered them across the country, they found ways to come back together, and it always involved food and faith and friendship in some combination.

I love that they would meet for dinner regularly, kids included. After supper, they’d put all the kids down for bed in pack n plays and sleeping bags, or whatever; and then the adults would come back downstairs to share what God was teaching them and pray with one another. Then when they needed to leave, they carried their sleeping children to their cars and took them home, but they stayed long enough for their souls to be fed and not just their bellies. And when there was a death or a new baby, a sick parent or another loss, they would bring food to one another, almost instinctively. This is the way I want to live my life; the way we try to live our lives.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration–at weddings, at anniversaries, at happy events of every kind. It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and on a practical level, our ability to live and breath each day. Food matters.

“At the very beginning, and all through the Bible, all through the stories about God and his people, there are stories about food, about all of life changing with the bite of an apple, about trading an inheritance for a bowl of stew, about waking up to find the land littered with bread, God’s way of caring for his people; about a wedding where water turned to wine, Jesus’ first miracle; about the very first Last Supper, the humble bread and wine becoming, for all time, indelibly linked to the very body of Christ, the center point for thousands of years of tradition and belief. It matters. It mattered then, and it matters now, possibly even more so, because it’s reclaiming some of the things we may have lost along the way” (p. 14).

“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (p. 17).

“I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are. Each one of us should be able to nourish ourselves in the most basic way and to create meals and traditions around the table that tell the story of who we are to the people we care about. And the only way to get there is to start where you are.

“If you don’t cook, begin by inviting people over. Order pizza and serve it with a green salad and a bottled salad dressing. Get comfortable with people in your home, with the meds and the chaos. Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul…and little by little, build a sense of muscle of memory, a body of knowledge, a set of patters for how your home and your heart open and expand when the people you love are gathered around your table” (p. 40).

“Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” (p. 51).

“One of the best part of my childhood was traveling with my dad” (p. 93). “…he taught me that where we are, we eat what they eat, and we eat what they give us, all the time. We taste the place when we eat what our hosts eat. As we traveled, food became a language of understanding, even more so than museums or history lessons” (p. 94). “…I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak…. I want them to know that ‘our way’ isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood–they love to play, to discover, to learn. … I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bit of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious” (p. 98).

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd. …So that’s what we do. We throw open the front door and invite people into our home, despite its size, despite its imperfections. We practice hospitality, creating a soft and safe place for people to connect and rest” (p. 106-7).

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment. Part of that, then, is honoring the way God made our bodies, and feeding them in the ways they need to be fed.

“I do draw a line between food restrictions for health reasons and plain old picky eating. I bend over backward for the first–I make sure to have a meal that includes a filling and beautiful option for people who can’t eat one or another part of the whole meal….

“What I don’t do, though, is knock myself out for picky eaters. Part of eating at someone’s table is learning about the tastes and textures and flavors of their home, and part of eating at someone’s table is understanding that homes are not restaurants and your host is not a short-order cook….

“So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand” (p. 114-5).

“[Y]ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide” (p. 195).

“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns” (p. 208).

“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ” (p.250).

“Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. ‘Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,’ Jesus says, ‘remember me.’ Communion is connection, remembrance. …the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us” (p. 251).

“And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day–no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done” (p. 252).

“Most of the time, I eat like someone’s about to steal my plate, like I can’t be bothered to chew or taste or feel, but I’m coming to see that the table is about food, and it’s also about time. It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and a fork. The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

“…if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of the one’s stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart.

“I want you to gobble life up in huge bites, tasting everything, trying every new flavor, remembering every smell and texture like it’s the best thing you’ve ever had. I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it” (p. 257-8).

See why I couldn’t put it down?! And it comes with recipes at the end of almost every chapter, a 4-week book club discussion guide (along with suggested menu for each book club night), and all kinds of entertaining tips. It’s beautiful and relatable, sharable and practical. Pick up a copy, read it, re-read it, share it, try the recipes, but most importantly, open your home and your table to the people God brings across your path, and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

[Wanted to share a little followup after reading and thinking more on this…

I loved her Bread & Wine book. Bittersweet was very relatable–sobbed thru the first half!

My only question mark is that she’s really vague about what she actually believes–like is she just a justice of the peace or an ordained minister?? There seems to be hints of Judaism and Catholicism, as well as a steep pendulum swing against the hypocrisies of hyper-conservatism. I like her writing style, but I hesitate to call her a Christian author–religious, yes, but not so sure about Christian.

There’s some really good food for thought & awesome hospitality & grace & forgiveness analogies, but I wouldn’t necessarily say deep–raw, vulnerable, sure. I had to actually stop reading her Savor devotional because it was kinda wishy washy–mostly one or two verses plus an excerpt from one of her books. 😕 Gifted author, but, like any author, don’t forget to read with discernment.

Here’s an interesting article about Shauna and her husband Aaron: https://bereanresearch.org/willow-creeks-the-practice-blends-new-age-catholic-mysticism/.%5D

It Cooks While I Sleep…

 I’ve always loved cooking…but I have a secret to admit: I have never been great with the crockpot! I know, I know. It’s supposed to be the simplest way to cook ever, but I seem to fail with this method. I either cook it too long or add too much liquid or it doesn’t get all the way done…. It’s a curse!

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And I am in a season of life where there isn’t much time for meal prep between when I get home from work and when Kyle goes down for bed…and we both need to eat sometime in there. And then there’s the part about kids waking up in the middle of the night…especially (it seems) when you’re already at your tiredest. So, I’m taking the plunge and attempting to cook with the crockpot! I even started a Pinterest board just for crockpot recipe ideas: Crockpot Meals (aka Working Mama Nom-Noms!).

Thankfully, I’ve stumbled across a few keepers (which I’ve modified or merged a couple of recipes together).

The Roast: 5 red potatoes (quartered), 1 small bag baby carrots, 1 onion (peeled and cut into 8), 3 cloves garlic (peeled and minced), 1 box beef broth over veggies, salt-pepper-cornstarch rubbed on the 2 pound roast and seared for 1-2 minutes on each side, then topped with fresh rosemary, basil, parsley, and sage, 1-2 Tbsp. each of honey, soy sauce, and worchestershire sauce. 10 hr. on low.

The roast I made for a friend who’s had sick kids and been discouraged recently, and I literally prayed over the crockpot! (Maybe that’s the real secret.) The recipient commented: “Well my plain ol roast will never taste the same. Delicious!” Great. Now I want pot roast. :/

Peaches ‘n’ Cream Steel Cut Oats: 1 small bag frozen peaches, 1/4-1/2 c. brown sugar,
Pinch salt, 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 c. steel cut oats, 4 c. whole milk.
Do not stir; cook on low for 8-9 hr. in slow cooker. Top with coconut butter or cream and a drizzle of maple syrup or fresh berries.

Breakfast Casserole: 1/2 bag frozen hashbrowns (so 15 oz.), 8 oz. block pepper jack cheese (shredded), 8 oz. breakfast sausage (cooked and crumbled). Sprayed crockpot with oil, then mixed the above ingredients in crockpot. This basically filled my small/med crockpot…but…Then I whisked the following together and dumped it over the top and it filled in all the nooks and crannies…12 eggs, 1 c. milk, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, fresh basil, rosemary, and sage (torn by hand and tossed in). Covered on low for 8 hrs.

Both breakfast dishes were super simple (though they made 3x the amount we need, but at least there’s leftovers). And Kyle loved it all too! They all turned out good enough to repeat! And I am very thankful!

What are your favorite crockpot recipes?

Meal Planning…

Since my baby is just starting to eat solids, I’m thinking meal planning is a good idea–to make sure he gets the nutrient dense foods he needs. So far he’s loved everything we’ve tried–from asparagus and avocados to oatmeal and sweet potatoes, from apples and bananas to baked beans and spaghetti sauce, from green beans to peaches, and the list goes on.

Do you meal plan? Ever feel like this?

Meal Planning

Before you end your week in tears and hatred, check out the recipes page or meal plans on this blog for some new inspiration! Or start a free Pepperplate account to make meal planning (and shopping) fast and easy! I also have several foodie boards on Pinterest, if that helps.

Bon Appetit!

Weekly Recipes and Meal Plan

This Week’s Basket from Milk and Honey Organics Included: Red Potatoes, Yellow Onions, Jonagold Apples, Bosc Pears, Pomegranates, Roma Tomatoes, Shallots, Parisi Farms’ Broccoli Crowns, Mustard Greens and Butternut Squash. My butternut squash so was so adorable – yes, I honestly think produce can be cute. ;) Some baskets had kiwi and lettuce, but I have plenty of lettuce because I had coupons to use from Organic Girl by the end of 2011.

This Week’s Meal Plan: I’m eating a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet, with only 5% of my calories from animal protein, but I did add optional meat, egg, and cheese options for my husband.
Recipes in the Meal Plan:

A Merry Christmas Basket and Meal Plan!

This year’s Christmas basket included Granny Smith Apples, Sweet Potatoes and Yukon Golds, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Oranges, Green Beans, Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Onions.

And here’s this week’s Meal Plan (using PepperPlate once again):

The first recipe that came to my mind when I walked in the house yesterday and saw these beautiful Granny Smith Apples from my Milk and Honey Organics weekly produce basket was the Marcia Adams’ Granny Smith Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce! It’s a family favorite around the holidays and a quick dump cake that is delicious every time! The last time I made it, I used buttered ramekins, so each person got their very own apple cake and could put as much or as little caramel sauce atop as they liked. This cake would also make a beautiful homemade gift for neighbors or friends. If it doesn’t turn out exactly as beautiful as you would like, just drizzle some caramel sauce on top and pipe some whipped cream on it! (Yes, I confess, I have done that before.)

Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of The Chew episodes. It’s a fairly new morning talk show on ABC featuring four chefs and a fashion stylist. It’s pretty funny, most of the time, and has a lot of good recipes. Here are a few that I saw over the last few weeks that would be great to feature this week’s basket in:

(Other Recipes from the Meal Plan can be found in past Weekly Meal Plan posts).

What will likely happen in my house (and perhaps yours), is that you’ll plan your Christmas Dinner as your main meal for the week and then snack and attend parties and family gatherings for the rest of the week.

Leftovers will likely be a part of this week’s menu for all of us, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be every bit as delicious as the feast itself. Enjoy plenty of  beautiful, organic produce this week! Keep it light and healthful and enjoy the time with family and friends even more than you enjoy the food! I hope you have a blessed and peaceful holiday season, full of family, food, and festivities!

Merry Christmas from My Journey to Lean!

Biggest Loser 2011 Thanksgiving Dinner

Tuesday night’s Biggest Loser featured a Thanksgiving meal for the participants. It looked really yummy! For these recipes go to The Biggest Loser page on NBC.com:

Other Recipes on NBC.com not shown on last night’s episode:

Thanksgiving Tips:

Remember, just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you need to make TONS of food! Just make a delicious, healthful spread and focus on the meaning behind the holiday: Giving Thanks!

I would recommend eating a healthful breakfast – something like steel cut oats with chopped apples and walnuts and a glass of milk. This will get your metabolism going for the day.

If your celebration dinner is at lunch time, try to limit your calories to 650-800 calories. If possible, space it out into two 300-400 calorie mini-meals. If you’re not in charge of the menu, offer to bring a couple of side dishes that will help you avoid the fat-laden foods. Don’t feel like you have to taste everything on the buffet! Eat a balanced, nutritious meal and really enjoy it!

If you’re waiting till late afternoon or evening to eat your main meal for the day, enjoy a light snack (like the Spinach Salad with Pears and Pomegranate with the Roasted Carrots and Parsnips or Beet Chips listed above), then keep your main meal restricted to 650-700 calories.

Also, you will boost your metabolism significantly if you go for a 20-40 minute brisk walk after dinner. So, grab the family and walk around the neighborhood or go outside and start a game of tag football or soccer. Nothing like family competition to keep the energy up!

Don’t forget to watch The Biggest Loser’s Thanksgiving Special Episode on Wednesday night at 9PM EST (8PM CST) on NBC.

For the 2010 menu, check out last year’s blog post.

Sweet Paul’s Thanksgiving…And His New Winter Magazine!

If you love beautiful photographs of delicious food, fun crafts and home decorating ideas that will make you smile, then check out Sweet Paul! They also have recipes to go along with the beautiful food pics and some DIY gift wrap inspiration! Enjoy!

Recently he’s been putting out digital magazines of his collections. Last year, he put out a Holiday edition that featured ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas! So, if it’s your turn to host this year’s Thanksgiving feast for your family, and you still don’t know what you’ll be serving, check out some of Sweet Paul’s ideas here. Here’s a glimpse:

And for the latest Winter edition of Sweet Paul's Magazine, check this out!

Doesn't French Toast Stars sound like a fabulous Christmas Morning breakfast?!

Check out the adorable tartan Scottie ornaments!

Don't forget to check out back issues of the magazine on the left nav bar when you're viewing any of the editions.

My favorite edition to date is the Special Kids edition from this past spring! This article is full of recipes for homemade organic baby food! So great! And the rest of the magazine has adorable crafts and kid-friendly recipes and party ideas!

I always look forward to the next edition of Sweet Paul Magazine! I hope you will too! Enjoy!

Weekly Recipe Ideas and Meal Plan for November 4-11

This week’s basket from Milk and Honey Organics included the following: Bio-Way Scallions, Bio-Way Mustard Greens (hiding off to the left hand side of this picture), Macintosh Apples, Golden Tangelos, Parsnips, Bananas, Seedless Crimson Grapes, Leeks, Spring Mix, Parisi Farms Green Peppers, Parisi Farms Sweet Potatoes, Parisi Farms Eggplant (mine are green).

This Week’s Recipe Ideas:

And finally, check out this week’s Meal Plan:
For an interactive PDF with recipe links, click on the meal plan above or here.

Go ahead and wash those grapes and toss them in a freezer for a fast, fun snack! I can’t wait to try the “Crustless Mini Pies” using last week’s butternut squash tomorrow night! I might just have to go ahead and make it tonight!

By the way, if your eggplants were green like mine, eggplants don’t change color as they ripen. Some are purple and some are green, so go ahead and throw them in some curry or grill them with olive oil and seasonings. Whatever you do, enjoy them!

Bon Appetit! And have a great weekend!

Weekly Recipe Ideas and Meal Plan

For the last several months I’ve been sharing recipe ideas and creating a meal plan for the Milk and Honey Organics blog (The Beehive Buzz). I’ve decided I’m going to start posting the ideas and meal plan on here as well each Friday. I hope you enjoy this!

This Week’s Basket: Grape Tomatoes, Butternut Squash, Cucumbers, Kale, Microgreens, Lemons, Bartlett Pears, Red Potatoes, White Mushrooms, Baby Spinach, Valencia Oranges, Granny Smith Apples.

This Week’s Recipe Ideas:

The simplest way to eat butternut squash is to slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and your favorite herb (I like rosemary, sage or thyme), and roast cut side up at 450F for 45 minutes. Once it’s cooked, you can store it in the refrigerator for about a week and add it to various dishes or reheat as a side item.

Last night, I made “Thanksgiving Soup” by adding 1 ½ c. of cooked butternut squash to 1 can of organic chicken broth, 2 c. of cooked whole wheat spaghetti, and ½ can of whole berry jellied cranberry. Add salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. Heat through and serve hot.

For More Recipes, check out the Recipe Archives Page on M&H’s Beehive Buzz blog. And here’s a simple, budget-friendly meal plan:

Bon Appetit! ~Melissa

The Party Dress Magazine and Blog

I stumbled upon an amazing blog that is affiliated with a magazine called The Party Dress. It has wonderful ideas for themed parties, like the Popcorn Party pictured below, and it’s filled with beautiful pictures and tantalizing recipes that would make Martha Stewart drool. Check it out!

Picture from ThePartyDress.net

We love hosting themed parties! One of our favorites is a Book Exchange party. Everyone brings a wrapped book that they love and want to share (no pranks allowed, unless you want to). Then we follow white elephant rules for the exchange. It’s so much fun!

In addition to the book exchange, we theme the food and ask everyone to bring something to share (which takes a lot of stress and cost off of you as the host). My friends Rachel & Dave have done roasting parties (bring something to roast on the fire; bonfire and coffee provided) and a flat bread party (bring something to top flat bread: sauces, dips, spreads, etc.). At our last book party, we asked everyone to bring a healthful hors d’oeuvre to share. And this next one is an Irish Pub Party theme!

What themed parties have you thrown (or attended) that were a big success with the guests?!