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Recipes

Opening the Door Again

Recipes, Word of the YearDeane Watters1 Comment

Throughout our marriage, my husband and I have been pretty hospitable people. In our thirty-eight years, we have hosted three high school exchange students and two college students, each living with us for nine to ten months. These lovely individuals have been a rich addition to the color and depth of our lives and our awareness and appreciation of the bigger world has been expanded as a result. We care deeply for our past students (now adults) and continue to be in touch with them in a variety of ways.

I love to cook and bake. So having people over for a meal has been another part of our bent toward hospitality. We have often hosted our small group from church on Sunday afternoons. Every Christmas we have hosted a big meal that can stir up enough memories to fill the whole house. There have been showers and parties and meetings and end of the year school gatherings throughout the years and week-end guests for us to serve and enjoy.

The past several years, though, we feel like we have done less asking, less inviting. People are busy. With families growing and grandchildren coming along there just isn’t as much time or energy to put into having people over. 

But I miss good conversation around the table. Not just any go-where-it-will chit chat. I mean rich connecting discussions that leave you with plenty to think about the next day. I absolutely love this kind of give and take. And yet, I find that not everyone wants to engage in this way. Or they don’t quite know how. Or perhaps it is becoming a lost art. There is definitely an intentional skill to being curious, asking good questions, listening and offering your own thoughts and ideas back.

Shauna Niequist writes it beautifully in Bread and Wine,  “What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, takes place at the table.”

Shauna is more eloquent than I but I agree that time around the table is where God enables great relationships get their start and where they continue to grow, for those who are willing to give of themselves in such a way.

Shauna goes on to write, ”It’s not, actually, strictly, about food for me. It’s about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories.”

I agree with her because as much as I love to cook food and feed it to people, the conversation is worth so much more. Food is just the way to get people to the table so this kind of exchange can take place.

 

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This year my word is OPEN THE DOOR. I explained here in a past post what that means to me spiritually. Today I share what else it means to me. It means coming back to inviting and opening the door of our house to people we want to get to know better. To offer ways to deepen relationships through the telling of stories and laughing together. To not staying too busy to host a gathering in our living room just for fun. To taking some risks and seeing if there are others wanting such fellowship.

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Last week we invited some folks over! It was a last minute invitation because I felt good after 2 weeks of not-so-good and I was eager to fill the house with people. I whipped up a couple of soups, baked fresh focaccia bread and some amazing brownies and we were good to go. A salad and fresh vegetables (added by our guests) brought everything to a beautiful completion.

After dinner we headed to the living room where we used a box of story starters to help us get to some of the stories of our lives that just might have never come up in “normal” conversation…like one guy’s stories of riding a bull in the rodeo, or of the first date of another who thought his date lived in a cemetery! (or at least that’s the address she gave him). Or the way one couple met when both were working at a Taco Bell. These were fun stories and their telling lead us all to know each other better. Isn’t that what we all want, really? 

 

Do you invite people in? Do you wish for closer friendships? If so, I encourage you to go for it! Don't wait to be asked. Be the one to ask. Make something simple or order in a pizza. It's really about relationship and there's no need to get stressed. Let's not let the art of good conversation be lost in the crazy of busy lives.

And if you get a call from us, know that we're just opening our door to friendship with you and, if possible, we hope you will say yes!  

 

Here's one of the delicious (and easy) recipes from our meal last week: Cream of Potato Soup

 

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Melt 4 Tbsp butter in soup kettle; stir in 2 Tbsp flour and add 2 cups milk.

Add 4 cups potatoes peeled and diced, 1/2 cup minced scallions, 3 cups beef or chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, simmer 15-20 minutes.

Using a hand-held blender, puree the mixture in the pot. Stir in 1 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine; sprinkle with cheese; serve.

Planted to Give Away

Family, RecipesDeane Watters2 Comments

Looking out my kitchen window, I watched as the Mercury station wagon pulled into our driveway.  It was the same every time Brian’s parents came to visit. His seventy-five year old dad, Paul,  would carefully step out of the car, walk around to his wife's door, open it and help her out.  Slowly she would emerge,  take his arm and walk slowly into our house. After getting her safely into the kitchen, Paul would return to his car to retrieve his box of whatever it was he brought to share with us.

Some days the box contained large round golden melons, the kind that just melt in your mouth with a sweetness not found anywhere but straight from the garden.  Being a summer joy, we’d eat them for breakfast everyday for weeks.

Other times the box was overflowing with large fresh brown Grundy County potatoes, dug from the black dirt mounds in his garden. He didn’t mind getting his hands dirty.  He loved the earth and he had us in mind as he planted and harvested. Years ago he had a contest to see which of our kids could dig up the biggest potato. Our student from Ukraine, Olah, won the prize, a full fifty cents.

From the large grove of apple trees growing on the farm’s western property line, he would bring apples so we could make applesauce and preserve it for winter eating - while they were in Arizona, feasting on fresh oranges and grapefruit. He loved to give apples away, many neighbors benefitted yearly from his generosity.

For many years, I looked forward to these seasonal boxes of edible treasures. The food was always fresh, usually picked the day he delivered them, and we put every bit to good use. But the box I most looked forward to was the one overflowing with his home-grown butternut squash. My eyes would light up at their oh-so-golden bulbous pale skin with their hidden dark orange flesh, gigantic, and filled with a promise to be delicious.

He’d bring them in, set the box on the back porch and remark with a little grin, “These should last a while."

And last  a while they did! We ate those squash all winter long!

Paul’s generosity was subtle. He gave quietly, without fanfare. Being one extremely careful with his money, he was extravagant when it came to his produce. These he planted to give away. 

 

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Proverbs 11:25 says, A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

During these holidays I encourage each of us to find ways to be generous, to freely give away what we’ve been given to give.  We could give of our time to visit someone sick or lonely. We could get on our knees and pray for the many needs around us. Taking a meal to a grieving or sick friend would be appreciated.  Writing notes of encouragement to people who tirelessly serve is another way to be generous. God's Spirit could lead us to give away money. There must be a million ways we could be quietly generous.

 There are blessings ready… joy filled and satisfying…humbly offered from love deliberately planted to give.

 

In honor of my father-in-law and the generous sharing of his beautiful butternut squash, here is a new soup recipe that we prepared and enjoyed this past week.

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Fast Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash

3 Tbsp canola oil, divided

2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash

2 Tbsp minced garlic, divided

1 cup chopped yellow onions

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp black pepper

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

3 cups unsalted chicken stock

2 (14.5 ounce) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided

3 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast

3 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro leaves (optional)

1 tsp grated lime rind (optional)

 

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over med-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add squash, saute’ 8 minutes or until lightly browned on all sides. Remove squash from pan; set aside.

 

2. Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pan. Add 5 tsp garlic, onion and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper) to pan; saute’ 6 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add stock; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

 

3. Place 1 cup beans in a small bowl; mash with fork. Add missed beans, remaining 1 cup beans, and reserved squash to pan. Cook 3 minutes. Stir in chicken; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

 

4. Combine remaining 1 tsp garlic, cilantro, and lime rind in a small bowl. Top each serving with about 1 tsp cilantro mixture.

 

Serves 6

Hungry for More?

Faith, RecipesDeane Watters2 Comments
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One night, as we sat in our cosy little breakfast nook, my husband and I dipped our spoons into steaming bowls of homemade soup. As we slurped away, Brian commented that it  was really good soup and I had to agree. Somehow the buttery, creamy base was a perfect compliment to the crunchy wild rice, sliced mushrooms and tender chicken. Paired with slices of sourdough bread slathered with butter; we enjoyed a tasty meal for a cold November evening. This deliciousness invited us to want for more.

Just the thought of those combined flavors and the nice satisfied feeling I had after partaking in that soup's offerings brings back some strong desires to get that recipe out and make it again because we want for more. 

I can't help but think through how my tasting soup relates to my tasting God's goodness.

Audrey Assad offers an idea. 

(Click title to listen.)

I Shall Not Want

From the love my own comfort...From the fear of having nothing...From a life of worldly passions.

Deliver me, O God.

From the need to be understood...And from a need to be accepted...From the fear of being lonely

Deliver me, O God...Deliver me, O God

 

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want...When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want

 

From the fear of serving others...Oh, and from the fear of death or trial...And from the fear of humility

Deliver me, O God...Yes, deliver me, O God

 

Our needs and fears seem to overshadow any of God's goodness but the refrain, reflecting Psalm 23, tells us that His goodness provides and  I shall not want. 

Hunger. Tasting. Desiring to be satisfied. All are human realities. But everything that we hunger for, everything we taste, fills us for a longing for more.

Except our Heavenly Father. 

1 Peter 2:2-3 "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."

How can we taste His goodness and find it to be so great that it shows us a glimpse of Him and satisfies our longings?  It seems that God has His ways of showing Himself. Do we have eyes to see and senses that taste and know?

  • A start would be to sit daily with our Bibles open to study deeply and chew on His amazing Word.  
  • Perhaps there's no money for a Christmas tree and one day you see the pastor driving up the long lane with a beautiful long-needled tree secured on top of his car. Ah...a glimpse of God!
  • Perhaps your loved one is very sick and people come in to pray and sing and recite beautiful verses over you. There He is again.
  • Perhaps your house floods and your church family pulls together $17,000 in one Sunday to help you get started on your way back to normal.
  • Perhaps a husband dies in an accident and the wife looks out the window and talks to God, trusting Him as sovereign.
  • Perhaps you have no job but at just the perfect time, your next door neighbor calls and tells you one of his employees has quit and, would you like a job? Ahh the goodness of God shining.
  • Perhaps your child is very sick and your church family prays, visits, brings meals, babysits for you - for several years. Thank you God for your goodness!
  • Perhaps a careless word was sent in your direction and you took great offense at it. But God gave you the grace to forgive and not hold on to the offense! His goodness is beautiful.
  • Perhaps you give birth or adopt a baby and you look deep into those eyes and see in them one so fresh from God. Taste such delights from His hand!
  • Perhaps you risk and share the gospel with a salesman on the phone. You feel you messed up the words but God uses those offerings in ways unseen. Oh the joy of seeing and tasting His goodness.
  • Perhaps you feel Him inviting you into a ministry far away. It is a big invitation but you say yes. You leave everything and go. Glimpses of his beauty speak volumes on a daily basis as you only have Him to rely on.
  • Perhaps you travel to a beautiful place...a national park or a rain forest or an ocean or the mountains. You see the beauty he has created and can only imagine the Creator of all this and find yourself mesmerized by such immense beauty. Inside you are somehow deeply thankful and greatly satisfied.
  • Perhaps your daughter has been found murdered and somewhere deep within comes the desire and the grace to forgive. Oh nothing but the goodness of God can allow such freedom.
  • Perhaps your church has been invaded and terrorized and many are killed. But your faith remains firm and God is your solid rock and extreme comfort.
  • Perhaps you see the frolicking of deer, the twittering of the birds, the chewing of the squirrel and the silence of the forest. Hello beautiful God! These are lovely gifts given by your hand. 

Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts, "Do I have eyes to see it's Him and not the thing?"

Do I? Do we?

When we taste your goodness we shall not want. We can only worship and sit in amazed thankfulness.

 The satiating of this kind of hunger is a far cry from tasting a delicious bowl of homemade soup. It finds and meets a deeper longing, one we absolutely cannot satisfy by our own doing. Only God can give us himself through Christ. Only He stops that excruciating poverty of spirit we cannot fix in any way except to come to Him and be filled... so full that we just don't want anything else, except more of him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

 

And if you're interested, here's the recipe mentioned above. Delicious. (Just ask Brian.)

 

Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

 

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 45 minutes

 

3 14.5-oz. cans chicken broth

1 cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained

½ tsp. dried thyme, crushed

3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

3 Tbsp butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey

 

1.    In a 4-qt Dutch oven combine 2 cans of the broth, the carrots, onion, celery, wild rice and dried thyme. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 40-45 minutes or until rice is tender but still chewy, adding mushrooms during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

2.   Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1 can of broth. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more; stir in cream. Add cream mixture to rice mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in chicken, heat through. If desired, sprinkle with additional black pepper.

 

Last Meal on Earth

RecipesDeane Watters1 Comment

If I knew this was my last meal on earth, I would choose to sit quietly in our breakfast nook with Brian eating these lemon scones and fresh fruit along with a mug of dark hot coffee for me and weak warm tea for him. We would reflect on our lives together.

Remember how Jonathan was an early talker? How he carried on conversations with us at such a young age? How he played with his imaginary friend, Andy Rootoo, until brother Joel came along? Remember how we called him a little professor because he became an expert and tried to learn everything he could about: rocks, wild flowers, constellations, birds, and geography...until baseball cards came along and then that brain of his started keeping facts and stats in his head. I'm sure they're still there.

That Joel. He made us a happy family even when things were stressful. He had lots of energy and would bounce a ball off somewhere whenever he walked through a room. He sang. He whistled. He ran like a deer. He always wanted to climb on Brian's back to put the angel on the Christmas tree. He LOVED his little red VW Bug, and so did we. He often played funny made-up games and we all went along with him because he was, well, he was Joel.

And Hannah! Remember how she ran and ran and worked the crowd in her little knowing way when she first got off the plane at when she was two? How cute she was and smart and creative! Her music in the morning when she was getting ready for school? (Just the other day I heard one of those songs in a store and I immediately thought of her back in high school.) How she sat on the counter and talked to me after school? How she backed Joel's bug into our garage door because she forgot to open it before shifting into reverse? How we got along so well?

Sigh....

We would go on to talk through each of our grandchildren and what kind of joy each of them brought. His career and my work would enter in as they provided the setting in which our family grew. Some of this talk would be full of happy memories. There would be some sadness and a bit of regret mixed in because that is what happens in life. We would most certainly reflect on our own love story also. How we met at First Lutheran's Young Adult group. How he was the first one to greet me when I came through those doors for the first time. How we grew closer through the years. And how mature love is certainly worth pushing through beyond the stress and the struggles of family life. We are practical people, not dreamers or impulsive ones,  so reflecting our mission trips to Ukraine, China and Mozambique would be meaningful to us. We took some wonderful family vacations so there would certainly be talk about them. We would talk through each one: the good and the difficult.

There are a few questions that we would need to talk through to wrap up our time together:  What happened to some of our friendships later in life? Why did things turn out the way they did at the end of his career? Perhaps we'd even reflect on what we might do differently if we had it to do all over again. We certainly would do all this talking with a spirit of  deep thankfulness for God's love and forgiveness that gave us hope and a firm desire to keep growing in our marriage and in our faith.

Not only would we look back but, because of our faith, we would have SO MUCH to dream about in the future. The hope of heaven and life beyond what we know here on earth would result in a lively and enthusiastic dialogue about all God has promised.

All of that would take hours. But if it truly was our last meal we wouldn't want to miss even one detail.

But really, discussions like this are good any time. We don't need to wait until our last meal.  Ongoing, essential and reflective times together make our lives rich and ever growing.

I encourage you to mix up a batch of lemon scones, grab your honey along with some coffee and invest in a few hours of reflection on your life so far. You won't regret it and I'm sure you will find it to be so worth your time.

(By the way, the recipe is included below! I love these scones!)

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones

(8 scones) 2 cups flour, lightly spooned into the measuring cup and leveled with a knife 1/3 cup sugar 1 t baking powder 1/4 t baking soda 1/4 t salt 1 t poppy seeds 8 T frozen butter 1/2 cup sour cream, I used light 1 egg zest of 1 lemon

Glaze 1/4 cup lemon juice 2 T melted butter 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, poppy seeds and salt.  Add the lemon zest and whisk to combine.  Grate the frozen butter (or used a food processor) and toss it into the flour mixture.  Combine it with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.  set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and egg.  Add this to the flour/butter mixture and toss with a fork until it comes to a ball and all the flour is moistened.

Lightly flour a surface and place the dough on it. Press the ball into an 8 inch disk and cut into equal wedges using a butter knife or pizza cutter. Place them evenly on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove from the oven and let them cool.

While the scones are cooling, whisk together the glaze.  Drizzle over the scones. IF you do it while they are still warm, it will spread over the top and drip down the sides, my favorite! Or you can do it when they are cool and drizzle squiggles on the tops.