Food

Where Has the Time Gone

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It’s July. This time last year, I was stressing on how to pack for a year in two suitcases and telling people about my future work with people experiencing homelessness in Hollywood. Now I’m trying to figure out how to get all my stuff home, because it has grown exponentially, and processing my work at First Pres. I have less than 20 days left at the Lord’s Lighthouse. My flight back to Virginia is in just over a month and I am trying to figure out how to move all of my stuff for my new apartment in San Anselmo in my Toyota Corolla. This year of service is quickly coming to an end, and I am in awe of how fast it went. I have made life long friendships and gained experience that I never thought possible. This year has molded my future ministry in so many ways. I had to write an essay for a scholarship application which asked the question, what kind of ministry do I feel called to? I cited several experiences I had had and books I have read, all within this last year. I’m not sure what type of ministry I will be called to do, but in the last year, I have learned and experienced hospitality in such a way that makes me feel called to always be working towards extending hospitality in the way that Christ did. Seeing that I have already written this essay on radical hospitality for the grant application, I thought I would post it here.

Calling of God

            In Tim Chester’s book, A Meal with Jesus, he writes, “Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, or put on events. He ate meals.” Obviously, I’m not going to seminary and pursuing ordination just to eat meals. But the beauty I find in this phrase is what ministry I am pursing. I am not sure of the future job title or position I will hold, but I am sure of my call into a world of striving to be more like Christ in all my future endeavors. I am called to a ministry of radical hospitality in which I serve and am served by all those around me. I feel called to this ministry based on the work I have been doing, the books I have been reading, and the voices who have affirmed this to me.

            I am currently serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in Hollywood, CA. While Hollywood provides the imagery of glitz and glamour, I have seen a much different side of Los Angeles in the last 8 months. I work at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood with the Lord’s Lighthouse Ministry. The Lord’s Lighthouse is a homeless outreach ministry where we serve a lunch twice a week, lead a bible study and homily, provide basic hygiene and clothing needs, connect our friends to further housing and health care resources, and most importantly, attempt to create a sense of community and church for those experiencing homelessness. What is commonly found among those experiencing homelessness is not only a loss of permanent housing, but a loss of community and a sense of belonging. The Lord’s Lighthouse works to create a church for those most often overlooked by society, most often forgotten. In my position as a YAV, I have the privilege to simply be present with our friends during a shared meal. I have forged real, meaningful, and mutual relationships with many people by sitting with them at the table and eating.

            During January and February, I coordinated a winter shelter at FPCH. The shelter, or Winter Refuge, as it has been renamed, has existed for the last 4 years. It was created by a group of Hollywood churches who felt a need to create a shelter model that was intentionally hospitable. While most winter shelters in Los Angeles, run by the county, are first come first serve, we work on a guest list to ensure that our guests     receive a full 8 weeks of rest, food, shelter, and love. For 8 weeks I enjoyed breakfast and dinner with our friends in the shelter, I shared in life. Christine Pohl writes in Making Room, “Around a dinner table, family and guest share food and life.”

            In the rest of her book, Pohl writes about the practice and history of radical hospitality in the Christian form. She cites the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke stating “Jesus redefines neighbor and love for neighbor. The scope of our responsibility to care includes anyone in need. This expands more tightly bounded definitions of neighbor that tends to limit responsibility to those we like or those like us.” Radical hospitality is a ministry that Christ continually calls us all to be a part of through this story. The challenge is to find space in our lives in which we can do this work. I not only feel empowered by Pohl’s words to do this work, but also urged to share her words to create a society that is once again based on radical hospitality. The word hospitality in our modern day typically refers to the service industry in which we pay for people to be overly welcoming to us. What would many major social issues look like if we, as a society, were overly welcoming to all?

            Another book that has been empowering me to this type of radical hospitality is Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. While Alexander does not put this book in a Christian context, it was easy for me to find a clear message in my own calling from her book. She looks at the War on Drugs and it’s persecution of mainly African American communities. Alexander writes “We could choose to be a nation that extends care, compassion, and concern to those who are locked up and locked out or headed for prison before they are old enough to vote. We could seek for them the same opportunities we seek for our own children; we could treat them like one of “us.” We could do that. Or we can choose to be a nation that shames and blames its most vulnerable, affixes badges of dishonor upon them at young ages, and then relegates them to a permanent second-class status for life. That is the path we have chosen, and it leads to a familiar place.” If, at any point, we as a society are choosing to create a “second class status” we are not following in the call of Christ. It is far too often that there are people who have been isolated in society and hurt by the church. I feel called to be a part of a church that no longer feels the need to do this, but instead, truly has doors wide open.

                As a YAV, I am urged to discover those isolated and alone. As an intentional community in YAV we have read books on racial reconciliation, gang issues in Los Angeles, toxicity in modern day charity work, the struggles of living on low and below living wages. We all work with homelessness in Hollywood and also run a community center in the primarily Hispanic neighborhood we live in. We are engaged in many facets of life in Los Angeles. I find that the more I engage in the city, the more I am led to be a part of the city. Not just a YAV living here for a year, but truly being in this city for the whole year. While I do not plan to be in Los Angeles after my year, as I am starting school in August, I want to fully be a part of the city. The church is not just the four walls of the sanctuary, for me I find the church in the city. DOOR, the partner organization with YAV in Hollywood, operates by the motto, “Find the Face of God in the City.” God is at work in all places, and not only is this my job as a YAV to seek that out, but also to be a representation of God and the church in my work in the city. My hope is that in any city and any job I am called to, this will forever be my call in the world, to create the Kingdom of Heaven, on earth. To love all on this earth because they are creations of God.

And is anyone surprised that I talked about eating meals with one another. For the 4th of July, I made Lanita and Sara, the only two housemates that stayed in LA for the holiday, a picnic lunch, as is required on the 4th. Here is the result and recipe for Sriracha Bean Burgers with a Bleu Cheese Butter. This is pretty messy to make, so get excited. The best part is that you throw everything into the food processor and let it do the hard work. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 can black beans

1 cup bread crumbs

1 eggDSC_4417

2 tbsp. Sriracha

1 tbsp. brown mustard

A handful of Cilantro

1/2 a red onion

1 red pepper

3 cloves of garlic

Juice from 1/2 of a lemon(or lime)

1 tsp cumin

black pepper

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Make sure it’s blended well and really thick, the thicker the better. You can always add more breadcrumbs to make it thicker. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, they hold better cold.

After an hour, form into patties, coat with breadcrumbs and cook on a greased griddle or frying pan. I liked the grooved griddle that we have. It is very squishy and messy to form but the breadcrumbs are helpful in keeping it together.

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They only need to cook for about 5 minutes on each side. For these put red onion, tomato, avocado, brown mustard DSC_4400 (2)and bleu cheese butter on a toasted bun. The Blue cheese butter is super easy to make, combine 1/2 cup of butter with 8 oz. of blue cheese crumbles. Whip together with a hand mixer and serve. It’s also really good on steaks. DSC_4400 (4)

Put all together and serve.

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Pack Nothing

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Each night at YAV orientation the poem, Passover Remember, by Alla Rene Bozarth, was read by one or more of the small group leader. I had not heard this poem before, and honestly have not thought much of it since. But tonight, I was reminded of it’s opening line: “Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve and your willingness to be free.” Pack Nothing, a similar title to one of my previous blogs, was not a reference to what physical items I was should leave behind for this year, but rather the mindset I should have for it. This has been a year of learning in, what has seemed as a year of turmoil in this country. This may not be the case, as I was the most uniformed during my college years. But working in a non profit, social services setting, has really opened my eyes to the issues in this country. When California voted on reducing non violent drug felonies to misdemeanors, my friends with the Lord’s Lighthouse program were effected. When protesting broke out around the nation over a deeply rooted racial issue, many of the guest spoke out. And most recently, the Supreme Court Decision to create marriage equality in all 50 states has created reason to celebrate for many in the community I serve with. And with all of these issues, I have seen and heard the other side speak out and act about the hurts they felt. The Facebook posts about the heritage of the confederate flag have filled my news feed and I most recently saw a post called “How can churches protect themselves” in the wake of the Supreme Court Decision. Within the last year I have experienced and read about the impact that these decisions have. I have had conversations with people who fall on both sides of very heated topics. When I think of “pack nothing” as it pertains to this year specifically, I hear the call to be open to the world I live and work amongst. I came into this year having very strong opinions based mostly on my parents beliefs and the basic understanding I had of the world. What I did not have, was the ability to listen to the other side. I was not open to this willingness to be free in the sense that I think Bozarth meant. Be free in a way that lets us be with one another, regardless of our ideas and beliefs. Be free in a way that doesn’t let us miss the opportunities for growth. Be free in a way that looks first to understanding and compassion as opposed to fear, hatred, and bitterness. It’s easy for me to think that my opinions are right, and if you don’t share those, you’re wrong. But I’m working on unpacking my preconceived notion of the other and come to a place where we can all sit at the same table together.

In this last year, my experiences have molded my political and social beliefs more than any other time in my life. Most recently, I finished Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow. In this book, she outlines the history of repression among African Americans and argues that the War on Drugs is only newest form of this repression. The majority of inmates are in jail for non-violent drug possession charges. Studies have shown that all races commit all types of crime equally, including drug offences. In fact the National Institute on Drug Abuse states in a recent survey that white youth are 7 times more likely to use cocaine and heroin and 8 times more likely to use crack than black youth. But 80% of people sentenced under harsher crack cocaine laws were African American. Here is a list of facts and statistic that you might also be shocked to discover:

1. The war on drugs was announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, but crack cocaine was not introduced until 1985. Crack Cocaine was the most publicized drug when promoting the war on drugs and holds some the harshest sentencing.

2. Crack is is pharmacologically similar to cocaine, but is stronger so can be sold in smaller quantities for more affordable prices.  However the mandatory minimum sentence is a “far more severe punishment for the distribution of crack.”

3.Since the beginning of the war on drugs, 31 million people have been arrested for drug offenses. But in 2005, 4 out of every 5 drug arrest were for possessions and not sales.

4. “Between 1980 and 1985  FBI anti-drug a funding increased from $8 million to $95 million.” But National Institute on Drug Abuse went from a budget of $274 million to $57 million.

5.  The United States imprisons more racial minorities than any other country. In Washington D.C.  “three out of four young black men can expect to serve time in prison.”

6.Three-fourths of all people imprisoned on drug crimes are black or Latino.

7.There are more African American men under the control of the correctional system (probation, prison, or parole) then were enslaved in the 1850’s

8. Alcohol related deaths account for roughly 100,000 people a year while drug related deaths, such as AIDS, over dose, and subsequent violence, only accounts for 21,000 people per year.

9.” In Vousia County, Florida, a reporter obtained 148 hours of video footage documenting more than 1,000 highway stops conducted by state troupers. Only 5 percent of drivers on the road were African American or Latino, but more than 80% of the people stopped and searched were minorities.”

10. In 1994, President Bill Clinton, endorsed the “three strikes your out” policy and authorized $16 billion for “state prison grants and expansion of state and local police” making the Clinton administration the time of the largest increase of prison inmates in American history.a

I can’t possibly retell all the points from this incredibly, eye opening book, and I won’t try. But if the recent months and even last few years have not shown that racism is alive and well in this country, then this book does. It shows that we as a nation have created a type of caste system which makes it possible for us to continue to discriminate against African Americans by labeling them as criminals. Once you are under the control of the criminal justice system, either in jail, or on probation or parole, you become ineligible for public housing. You cannot get food stamps and other government relief opportunities. Most housing options will deny you because you have an felony, and so will most employers. You are not eligible for student loans. Many higher educations will not admit you based on your criminal record. You may owe the government money for public defenders, court cases, and other fees. Many states laws currently say that you will not be allowed to vote until they are paid off (sound like a poll tax to you?). In the 1970’s, criminologist theorized that the prison system would be almost obsolete in 30 years. Instead, mostly due to the war on drugs, the prison population has quintupled.

In the two weeks since the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, six predominately African American churches have been burned down. There is hate and anger in these communities. But in light of the atrocities in Charleston, the families of the victims killed by Dylann Roof, forgave this young man, as we are called to do by Christ. This young man was afforded love and grace by this community that he devastated. This group of people truly know what it means to share Christ love better than most. It is often said the the Bible is the greatest love story ever written. When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus responds with two commandments, one old and one new. “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.” I am disheartened by the way this country is continuing to live with one another. We are suppose to be this great melting pot of beliefs and ideas. We are country that is suppose to be based on freedom. We are suppose to be one nation, under God. And yet we spew fear and hatred as our main message. We have to remember that we are one people, united by the fact that we dwell on this earth for a limited amount of time. We are human beings and we are responsible for each other. Jesus ate meals with tax collectors, prostitutes, leapers, and fisherman. He chose to walk beside all groups of people. He set the table that we are all invited to. It’s time that we set that table again, we need to be reminded of the love that exists at the table and we need to share it with all, not just the ones we agree with.

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I can’t end a post about sitting at a table without posting a meal to serve at it! A few weeks on one of our weekly community days, I made breakfast for my housemates. I decided to go all out, so I learned how to make egg Benedict with all the fixins. Now to start, I have never poached an egg before. My mom has this great little insert for a pan that has these little cups that sit over water and it poaches the eggs. But once again, I am in a semi-well stocked kitchen without my own utensils. The poaching of the egg is the reason I have been hesitant to attempt to make this recipe before.   There’s a scene in Julie and Julia, where Julie is learning to poach an egg, and she basically just scrambles it in water. I am not yet brave enough to attempt this. But as if by magic, a Pinterest post shared with me a great tidbit of information that said I could use aluminum cupcake liners in a pot of water to poach them. So that’s what I did. It makes them a little thick, but it works in a pinch.

DSC_4385 As the eggs cooked, I started on a Hollandaise Sauce. For the 6 of us, I  used 1/2 cup of butter, 4 egg yolks, juice from half a lemon, a dash of salt,  and paprika. I really like paprika, so I tend to add more as I cook.  Whisk it all together and set on the stove top on low heat. Keep  whisking as it thickens. If it starts lump whip faster and constantly. Leave it on the the heat until it thickens up.

 

 

The great things about Eggs Benedict is that you can basically put anything on them. I cooked eggplant, spinach, bacon, and smoked salmon for ours. Ham, mushrooms, and tomatoes are also great. I also toasted English muffins as the base for the egg. Once everything is ready just plate your eggs. There is not really a wrong way to construct eggs Benedict, but I like my English muffin on the bottom and the hollandaise on top.

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Peace Meals and Easter Eggs

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Happy Holy week. Holy week is always a busy time in the life of a church. Beginning with Palm Sunday, continuing on with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, up to the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday. The Hollywood YAVs spent Palm Sunday in Phoenix Arizona. We took a long weekend to stay with Heather’s parents and watch a few spring training games. It was a mere 95 degrees for the Giants/Mariners game on Saturday. Fortunately, the temperature dropped 10 degrees for the Diamondbacks/Rockies game the next day. We celebrated Palm Sunday at the church Heather grew up in. We had an amazing trip of family and baseball. We quickly returned to our work week and the community house. Instead of attending a Maundy Thursday Service, we dyed Easter eggs and had an Easter egg hunt with the kids in our community. Some of our kids had never dyed Easter eggs before, and it was so much fun watching them explore the different colors and ways to make the eggs two toned. The Good Friday Service at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood was done in collaboration with Reality LA, a non-denominational church in Hollywood. I recently questioned why Friday is referred to as “Good” during Holy week, as it is the day that Christ was crucified. But then the pastor of Reality LA said, “In order to get the celebration of Easter, we must go through the suffering of the Crucifixion.” With out the death of Christ, there is no resurrection. Without death there is no life. It is through Good Friday we get Resurrection Sunday.

As a part of my family’s Easter tradition, we dye Easter eggs on Easter Eve each year. I have a picture of my first Easter, sitting with 3 of my siblings and my parents, the dining room table covered in newspaper and cups of vinegary dye with eggs in all of them. It’s tradition. As long as I can remember, I would plop my designated number of eggs into various colors and be done dyeing eggs in 5 minutes, and then sit very impatiently while my wildly creative sister would spend what felt like forever on her eggs. I got better as I got older, but never quite to Jennifer’s level. The wax crayon was my best friend, and I would write different things that I loved, my school, my pets, my sorority, my friends, my parents, and many other generic tokens. This year,  I watched the kids dye eggs as fast as they could, trying to remind them to take their time, and enjoy the process, word I never heeded as a child. But today, my new YAV family and I sat down to dye our own eggs. This year it took me 2.5 hours to dye 5 eggs~ Here are my creative masterpieces:

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Aren’t they lovely. The dyeing of Easter eggs is the tradition which brought us all to the table, to bring us together in fellowship and laughter. Most of the time only food can do this! Speaking of which, I finished my next book on the list! Peace Meals,  is the personal memoirs of war journalist Anna Badkhen. She tells her journey of  reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war torn countries in the Middle East and Africa. In each chapter, she tells the stories of former warlords and terrorist, rape victims, American soldiers, translators and drivers, prisoners, and everyday people, and how the meals she ate with each person forged a bond. Badkhen writes in the epilogue of her book ” In extremity, an offer to break bread is more than invitation to hear someone’s story. It is a chance to link that person’s life and yours.”

Exciting News! I’m going to Virginia in May! I’m so excited to see all of my sisters for the first time in a year. I just booked my ticket so I can see my nephew graduate from VMI! See you soon VA!

 

Also, my birthday is one week!

Making Room

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I finished the first book on my list!

Making Room is both a history and guide book through the practice of extreme hospitality. Christine D. Polh spent time with several intentional Christian Communities that practice this form of radical hospitality to learn how it is done most effectively. These communities exist both nationally and internationally and serves people from all walk of life. Pohl writes “Today when we think of the hospitality we don’t think first of welcoming strangers. We pictures having family and friends over for a pleasant meal. Or we think of the ‘hospitality industry,’ of hotels and restaurants which are open to strangers as long as they have money or credit cards … but we rarely see it as a spiritual obligation or as a dynamic expression of vibrant Christianity.” The organizations that practice radical hospitality provide welcome to refugees, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, people with mental and physical disabilities, and other who live on the margins of society.

In reading this book, I couldn’t help to notice the similarities between the the practices of radical hospitality and the lunch program that I work with. While we only offer our program twice a week, we employ as many of the practices of hospitality and welcome. We start each day by giving each of our guest name tags which is “one of the simplest ways of communication welcome … learning their names quickly.” The other highly important form of hospitality, and the basis of our ministry, is to share a meal. We urge our all our volunteers to eat with the guest once the meal is served. While we are providing the basic necessity of food, we are striving to provide more, a place to build community and a sense of belonging. “In hospitality, the stranger is welcomed into a safe, personal, and comfortable place, a place of respect and acceptance and friendship. Even if only briefly, the stranger is included in a life-giving and life-sustaining network of relationships.” The last piece of radical hospitality we try to employ is to redefine the relationship between guest and volunteer. “Hospitality involves friendship as well as serving food.” We play the role of the church, and as such we strive to create mutual friendships instead of a social worker helping a client. “Because eating is something everyone must do, meal-time has a profoundly egalitarian dimension. Meal-time, when people sit down together, is the clearest time of being with others, not doing for others. It is the time when hospitality looks the least like social services.”

Pohl uses many biblical references to support the idea of radical hospitality. One in particular comes from the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. “Jesus redefines neighbor and love for neighbor. The scope of our responsibility to care includes anyone in need. This expands more tightly bounded definitions of neighbor that tends to limit responsibility to those we like or those like us.” What would it look like if we took a Good Samaritan approach to issues of homelessness, immigration, and others pushed to the margins? How can we love our neighbors and refuse to offer them equal rights, allow them to go hungry and sleep on the street, and believe that they do not have a place in this world. Because, not only is each person we meet a representation of Christ, but our response also represents Christ in the world. “The response we give to an unexpected guest is connected to how that person experiences God’s love and welcome.”

Here are a few more quotes from Pohl’s book that I found helpful and intriguing:

“Without supper, without love, without table companionship, justice can become a program that we do to other people.” Murphy Davis, co-founder of the Open Door.

“When sanctuary and a slower pace are combined, there is a sense of peace.”

“Around a dinner table, family and guest share food and life.”

“The front door of the home is the side door of the church.”

“Generous and steady hospitality, practiced among believers from different backgrounds, can be the beginnings of significant reconciliation.”

“Church, like families, need to eat together to sustain their identity as a community. The table is central to the practice of hospitality in home and the church – nourishment we gain there is physical, spiritual and social. Whether we gather around the table for the Lord’s Supper or for a church potluck dinner, we are strengthened as a community.”

“It is in the shelter of each other the people live.” Irish proverb

And of course it wouldn’t be a blog about breaking bread without a new recipe. Today it is a fruit and rice salad. While this recipe can vary to your liking, here is what our lovely salad contained!

Beets, Beet Greens, Kale, Lettuce, Green Onions, Wild Rice, Strawberries, and Feta Cheese.DSC_3366

Start by cutting the greens off of the beets, wrapping the beets in tinfoil and baking them for 40 minutes at 350°F.DSC_3368

 Remove the spine from the beet greens and kale, cut all the greens into smaller pieces and combine them together. Slice the strawberries and add them to the greensDSC_3373.

Cook wild rice according to packaging and add to salad.Next, once beets are finished cooking, peel skin, slice and quarter. But be careful, their messy and will stain your hands.DSC_3379

Add the feta and chill for one hour.  DSC_3385

Again, any salad dressing will work but I like to make a balsamic dressing for this salad. Start with the juice of two lemons.DSC_3387

Combine 1/2 c. of olive oil.

Then add 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp. of rice vinegar, and a dash of paprika. Shake and serve! DSC_3390

One of our new goals as a house is to have dinner at least twice a week together. We have chosen Friday nights to share our meal and share our week. Due to a long work week, we usually are full of energy and full of laughs. This week we enjoyed dinner outside, because it’s L.A. and always warm. DSC_3392

“Hospitality will be most satisfying for both host and guest when food is served.”            — Joetta Handrich Schlaback

New Year, New Post, New Recipe

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After an amazing 10 days at home, I returned to Los Angeles in time to bring in the New Year with my house mates. 2014 was a pretty great year. I got accepted to YAV Hollywood and San Francisco Theological Seminary, graduated from Virginia Tech, went to Guatemala, spent the most of the summer in Montreat or Massanetta, and moved to Los Angeles. In 2015 I will finish my YAV year and move to San Francisco, take a trip to Mexico, explore more of California, take a cross country road trip with my sister, and many more adventures I am sure. The new year is just another day and yet means so much to so many. It is our chance to change ourselves or our lives. New Year resolutions usually last all of 2 months before we lose the momentum driving the new year. So, instead of a resolution for the entirety of the whole year, here is what I would like to happen in the next 2 months. I will be running a winter shelter for all of January and February. I will be stressed, tired, and crazy. I want to take time in the next two months for myself, when I can. Learning my own limits, and how I can refuel. Self care is so important and stressed during YAV orientation and throughout the last 4 months.. I will need this more in the next 2 months than ever before. I will read books, renew my yoga practice, visit the beach, and cook new recipes.

In the spirit of cooking, here is my latest recipe. I made lemon curd just before I left for my Christmas vacation. I IMG_0870was inspired by a Starbucks yogurt cup with granola, lemon and raspberries. As I can not afford to purchase a $3 yogurt cup every day, I decided to make my own (without raspberries). Lemon curd is amazing! It’s tart and sweet and I would eat it by the spoonful. We also have a lemon/lime tree in the front yard of the community house. Yay for local ingredients!

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Lemon curd is yummy and easy to make – here’s how: Start by juicing and zesting 4 lemons. Next, separate 6 eggs. You will only need the yolks, but the egg whites can be use in baking or cooked into an omelet!  IMG_0861

   IMG_0864 Next zest an orange. The next time I make this recipe I will also juice the orange, but this time I simply used the  zest. Now add the lemon juice, lemon and orange zest, and egg yolks into a double boiler along with 1/2 c. sugar and 6 tbsp. butter. Stir over medium heat until desired thickness (about 10 minutes). IMG_0860   Store in a jar or sealed container and refrigerate. Use on literally anything – yogurt, toast, waffles, spoons. Enjoy!

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The Pizza Crust Be With You

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October has flown by. I felt like the first month we were in Los Angeles went by fairly slow, but now it’s Halloween and November starts tomorrow! Lots of things have happened this month. I was really able to get involved at work this month.  I spent a lot more time with our friends at the Lord’s Lighthouse. Not only was I more involved in providing basic necessities like hygiene products and clothes, but I also spent more time talking to everyone. I even spent one on one time with several friends, in hopes to find housing. The first time I tried to help someone find housing, I had spent the previous days learning about shelters in Los Angeles. I was extremely optimistic that the man in my office would walk out of lunch that Wednesday with a place to sleep that was not on the street. Unfortunately that is not something I can even come close to promising. As I have said in previous posts, there are roughly 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. In a recent count of service in the county, the survey found that there only 16,000 beds are available for all the homeless in the area. I want to fix the immediate need of finding a place to sleep but that is something I may never be able to do.

While I struggle with my inability to fix a bigger system, smaller tasks around the church help me with productivity. I am able to provide hygiene products, clothes, and occasionally bus tokens, I help cook and set up for meals, and I give out name tags at the beginning of each program. We have started planning for the winter shelter that will begin on January 4th. Once this begins, my job will really be pushed into hyper drive. I also made awesome progress with hygiene room closet. Here are the before and after pictures!

Before:                                                                                            After:

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October also brought us our first trip out of Los Angeles. First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood went on an all church camp retreat at Forest Home, a camp in San Bernardino National Forest, 2 hour east of LA. The camp was nestled in the beautiful river valley of the national forest and provided an amazing weekend of nature, relaxation, and a time to recharge. I have loved living in the big city of Los Angeles. There is always something to do, public transportation is fairly awesome, and there is so much within walking distance. However, being out of the city surrounded by beautiful scenery reminded me a lot of being home in the mountains of Virginia. It reminded me of everything that exists outside of the Los Angeles bubble. Here is a little taste of what I saw!

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Also an October feat, I made my first homemade pizza! Thanks to a crust recipe from my college roommate, Michelle, I have been able to make pizza twice and will be making it a third time tomorrow! As you know, I love to cook so here is my newest adventure for you to experience! This time I will post the single recipe, but I will be tripling it for tomorrow’s dinner.

To make the pizza crust start with 1 packet of yeast mixed with 1 cup of warm water and 1 tbsp. of sugar. Allow this to sit until foamy (about 10 minutes). Add 1 tsp. of salt, 2 tbsp. of oil and 4-6 cups of flour. As I do not have a mix master with bread hooks, I kneaded this by hand for about 15 minutes until completely combined and no longer sticks to surfaces. Cover the dough ball in oil and allow to rise in a cloth covered bowl for 1 hour.

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Once the dough has finished rising, punch it down into a workable ball again. The pizza can be cooked in a myriad of ways, including a cookie sheet or cast iron pan in the oven. Which ever you choose to use, grease the pan well with oil on a paper towel. The dough has a tendency to stick to the pan even with the pan well greased, so it is important to grease it as well as possible. Press dough into the pan used, a rolling pin can be used to help. I have found this to be the most difficult part of the process, so be patient while stretching the dough into the shape you wish. With the given ingredient measurements, I was able to make one pizza on a 8×10 cookie sheet.

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I then melted 2 tbsp. of butter and combined it with 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp. of fresh rosemary, 2 fresh basil leaves, and 1 tsp. of onion salt. I combined these together and spread over the uncooked crust. Next, use the sauce of your choice, the first time I used a Trader Joe’s marinara sauce and the next time I used a Ragu pizza sauce. The amount of sauce used is a personal preference, but I say more is always better! The same goes for cheese! I use mozzarella cheese, and lots of it! Pizza is a really awesome dish to eat, but hard to tell you how to make because its really up to you how you make it. I use different toppings each time. As the only vegetarian in a house with 6 meat eaters, I end up cooking a lot of meat. So far as toppings I have used pepperonis, onions and sausage, artichoke hearts, onions, green peppers, and more cheese.

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The passing of the peace is one of my favorite parts of any worship service. Whether it’s a handshake, hug, or peace sign, greeting the people around you is awesome way to experience Jesus. It also is a “controversial” part of any service. I have had conversation when planning a contemporary service where the passing of the peace is too “traditional” for a contemporary service. I have also heard people complain that passing of the peace is too new age and contemporary for their traditional 11 a.m. service. What I believe the actual complaint on the passing of the peace is that it causes people to be uncomfortable and awkward. I think this because experience it. It’s not easy to go and greet the new people in church and it’s even harder to be the new person in a church. My roommate in LA, Jordan, alleviates this pressure by saying the pizza crust be with you, as opposed to the peace of Christ. This was echoed also by Tom, one of my bosses at the Lord’s Lighthouse, while he gave a homily about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a Pizza. The bible is full of allegories of heaven, but I’m pretty sure it was never compared to a pizza before. The reason a pizza is a hard thing to tell you how to make is because there is now one set way, we all have different things we put on it, and none of them are wrong. Everything can be put on a pizza just like the peace of Christ can be passed to all!

 

A Taste of Life

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Something I have always found great comfort in is cooking. We talk a lot in the YAV program about self care and find ways to take the time for renewal. For me, I find this time while I’m in the kitchen (except when I have to do the dishes) . There is just something about chopping, and measuring, and creating that brings me joy and gives me life. Because I enjoy this time in the kitchen so much, I find myself doing a majority of the cooking in the intentional community that I am living in. This time for creating renews me each day, and I want to share that with all of you that are following my story. My goal, as of now, is to make this a place of storytelling and creation, by sharing what I cook and what gives me life.

Cooking in itself is a wonderfully restorative activity, but what follows is even better. Sharing meals with one another builds communities in so many ways. When we spend time together, breaking bread together, we share in a sacred time. Food is incredible important physically, but meal time as a family is equally as nourishing. Jesus is known for eating with the sinners and the outcast as a way to bring everyone into the family of God. Gregory Boyle writes in his book, Tattoos on the Heart, “Jesus’ strategy is a simple one: He eats with them … Jesus says, ‘I will eat with you.’ He goes where love has not yet arrived, and  he ‘gets his grub on.’ Eating with outcasts renders them acceptable.” Jesus made all of us acceptable, despite our differences, our short comings, our blemishes.

This is also something I get to live out in my job placement. As I wrote in my last blog post, on Wednesdays and Sundays I share a meal with all of our friends that are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. This past Sunday we shared with over 100 people. While providing the meal serves the immediate need of food, we strive to nourish all of our friends further than that. We eat together, break bread together, and create community together. On Christ’s last night with his disciples, he broke the bread and poured the wine and joined all his friends in the new covenant of what church meant. Whether we are partaking in the sacrament of communion or simply eating a plate of spaghetti with friends, we affirm this call to be in community and to be the church.

One reason I was so excited to move to LA was because it was the land of eternal summer! Just yesterday we went to the beach, and I assume we will do that more all year long. However, if it is always summer, then we never get a fall, which is being missed slightly here. To remedy that situation I will start my food adventure in Hollywood with Pumpkin French toast.

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This was really very easy to make and my first time ever making french toast. I grew up watching both my parents make it, but had not quite learned my self.

In a large bowl mix together the following:DSC_1628

  • 1c. Pumpkin Puree
  • 1.5 c Milk
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 Tbls. Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  •  1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • I know these sound like large quantities, but remember I’m cooking for 7 people!

 

In our house, we are quite limited on kitchen supplies, so instead of an electric griddle, I used a non stick pan (sprayed well and often with cooking oil) over medium heat. The type of bread you use is up to you. I bought a thinker cut bread, but had extra of the pumpkin egg mixture so used regular sandwich bread as well. If you are using thicker bread, this will make about a loaf and a half.

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Once the pan is hot, dip the bread in the pumpkin egg mixture so that it is fully coated on both sides. Place the coated bread in the heated pan and wait. I didn’t stick to a set amount of time before flipping each piece, but I would say roughly 2-3 minute per side. Make sure that the bottom of the bread(which is actually being cooked) is no longer wet when you flip, that’s how you know its ready.

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Growing up, I always put butter and cinnamon sugar on my french toast. This time though I but butter and powdered sugar. Syrup, fresh fruit, and whipped cream would all also be a great topping! I hope you find this recipe as easy as I did. With any luck, new recipes will be coming regularly! Thanks to everyone who has supported me in this journey. I have now been here in Los Angeles for 5 weeks and am so grateful for all the love I have felt in this huge transition. Check out my new photo gallery to see what I’ve been doing!

 

Food