Tag: Community Blog

Mrs. Cooks reviews ‘You are the Beloved’

By Roben Mounger. Originally published on her website, Ms. Cook’s Table (along with an excellent Hoppin’ John recipe)

The day after Christmas, my granddaughter Elodie and I cooked a menu of her design for the family. When tucked into bed that night, she said to her mother, “I am so happy and alive.”

Understanding that happiness is ever elusive, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle instructs, “don’t seek happiness.” The dearest of third graders nailed the specifics: happiness sneaks up when we are doing that thing that makes us feel the electricity of life. No doubt Elo will manifest this elevator ride to the rooftop by preparing good things to eat for others her whole life through.

Meanwhile at the other end of the timeline, I watch the unbridled joy of her whirling dervish-ness which brings me gratitude and gets me jumping. Such observations are over there in the corner of my mind, along with a blooming fondness for vegetable gardening, documentaries on nature, and spiritual reading.

And then there’s also that frequent kick I get from channeling my grandparents, not in their roles as grandparents, but as the people they were. All of these current favorite things give me access to alive-ness through the subtle feelings of gratefulness.

And I know without doubt: where I put my attention, so goeth my life. Each morning this coming year, I will set my sites on gratitude with a daily reading from a new collection drawn by the talks, writings and letters of Henri J. M. Nouwen. The meditations therein were compiled by Gabrielle Earnshaw, the curator of the Henri Nouwen Archives and Research Center.

Nouwen was a Dutch-Catholic priest who was engaged in social justice and community. For many years, he lived in a community of intellectually disabled men and women at L’Arch Daybreak. His documented experiences call us to see that even the pain and suffering in life can provide simple thresholds to fullness of being and an added appreciation for living.

I plan each morning to open my copy of You Are the Beloved and stream a roadmap to the essentials of being alive. Nouwen reflects on such thought provokers as: letting go, a new vision of maturity, what we’re looking for is already here and passages to new life. I can use some extra doorknobs on those topics and the hundreds of others that the book offers for introspection.

rm you are the beloved

This hardback book is downright friendly in the way it rests in the hand. Each page is numbered by date in the top corner and contains plenty of free space to aid in your quiet approach to the day.

To get the lay of the land, I started by reading the last meditation, noting that I will read it again on December 31, 2018. And with a promise from Nouwen: “You are in communion with God and with those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last, ‘I will undertake the year’s commitment.'”

In gratitude, I open my arms to 2018 with a deep bow to my three year old grandson Robert. He showed the pathway with an essential prayer when, after a recent big sneeze he said, “Bless you, Me.”

Author’s note: I received You Are the Beloved free from Blogging for Books, but was in no way required to provide anything but an honest review.

Ms. Cook reviews ‘How to Set a Table’ (with Paella Bowl recipe)

How to Set a Table

Special Post by Guest Blogger Roben Mounger

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
– Virginia Woolf

What in the name of Sam Hill’s grandmama’s silver is needed by the generations to come? One insurance executive commented that “technology is developing so fast that autonomous vehicles could be available by 2032, meaning babies born today may never have to take a driving test.”

If that’s what’s in store, what will become of the competitive edge for things like buying fancy schmancy cars? Self sufficient endeavors like growing the best garden might be an answer and a possible leap forward in the culture. What goes around comes around.

My grandparents taught me about growing vegetables and maintaining a chicken coop in the backyard. They schooled me in how to sew on a button and put in a hem; how to iron a shirt and make boiled custard; how to mop a hard-to-clean checkered kitchen floor; how to use the public library and behave in the company of others.

They also required that I set the table for each meal, a job that I failed to appreciate. For me, rules that never wavered were a drag. Things today have gone a bit slack in this, yet another, category of…. “why bother?” Behold, rules for household management are now of a refreshingly reliable nature.

And considering the never ending river of paper and plastic products streaming across the world table and into the landfill, we should think again. In the face of such despair, there is a growing recognition that a daily diet of beauty is not only enjoyable, but as The New York Times reported, “can speed patient recovery, aid learning in the classroom and spur productivity in the workplace.”

To that, as humble as it seems, a prepared table set and ready for a meal may revitalize life with its inestimable beauty. Somehow I believe that the erudite publisher Clarkson Potter has mystical awareness. They have, after all, been in the lifestyle book business since 1959. Their books are instructional as they are visually stunning.

From bloggingforbooks.com, I chose one of the publisher’s creations, a linen-like text, How to Set A Table, for its alluring cover design and simple statement of intent. Believe it or not, it’s a real page turner with exquisite zen-like photos prompting ease in the daily routine of setting a table.

Inside the tiny book are decrees to be treasured. With the new world of specialty cocktails, who doesn’t need a tutorial in the different kinds of glassware? A generation or two of instruction has been bypassed, so a succinct primer in flatware types and their placement is elementary yet necessary.

How to successfully iron a tablecloth is weirdly helpful. Also, useful and proper table manners for a relaxed and happy meal are scattered throughout like the mothering voice for which you long.

But what is mandatory for continued use is how occasions are broken into their own chapters with advice on how to set the dining table, the breakfast bar, the coffee table, the picnic blanket, the bistro table, the console and the serving tray.

With appreciation you’ll note that How to Set A Table counsels, “personality is always the most important ingredient.” I will give tribute to this notion when I joyfully make the book a gift, from Lemuria to my grandchildren .

And they will know that it is essential for home because they’ll see that it stands next to my beloved copy of Dinner by Melissa Clark. But that is another story.

*I received this book free from Blogging for Books, but was in no way required to provide anything but an honest review.

Paella Bowl

My mother had an elegant flair for entertaining. Her primary guests were family members. Pre national food obsession, she took a class in Spanish cooking and derived a family heirloom – a recipe for paella.

I treasured that recipe for special events, but over time prepared it less and less as it was heavy in exotic proteins. Later I adopted a quickie paella from the pages of Real Simple which made use of pre-prepared ingredients.

With the following recipe, however; I feel that I have graduated to a contemporary and divinely inspired paella.

Here it is:

broth
3 1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

saute
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 artichoke hearts, quartered
1 medium yellow squash or zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small roma tomato, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cup frozen lima beans or edamame
1 cup paella or arborio rice

garnish
1/3 cup green peas, thawed if frozen
1 jar roasted red pepper, cut into 1/3-inch strips
1/4 cup minced parsley
lemon slices

broth
heat the broth, paprika, salt and saffron in a saucepan over high heat, bring to boil, reduce to simmer. cover and keep warm over low heat.

saute
heat the oil in a 13 inch skillet over medium high heat. add the artichoke and squash and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. transfer to a medium bowl. add the bell pepper, tomato and garlic. cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down. add the green beans and lima or edamame beans. add the rice, spreading it evenly over the vegetables. add the broth, taking care not to disturb the rice too much, but ensuring that the rice is submerged in the broth. reduce the heat to medium and cook until the rice is al dente, about 14 minutes. arrange the squash and artichoke hearts on the paella and continue to cook until the rice is tender and the broth is absorbed, about 4 minutes longer.

garnish
scatter the peas over the paella, arrange the strips of pepper on top of the paella and sprinkle with the parsley. remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 5 minutes before serving. serve in bowls with lemon slices.

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