Have You Ever Thought Of Going Solar with your Cooking?

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Seattle which turned my thoughts to how we can harness the power of the sun for our daily lives. I itch to experiment with solar cookers and am looking forward to experiments in this and other energy efficient ways of preparing my food. Would love to hear from those who have experimented already. Here are some great videos I found on this topic.

I loved this one on using a parabolic mirror for cooking a turkey burger. There are similar videos available on how to cook ceese sandwiches and in fact anything else that you might want to grill.

And this one on how to build a solar generator is both intriguing and appealing to me.

The one that most touched me and in fact brought tears to my eyes is this one. It is amazing to think that rape and violence against women could be reduced by solar cooking. Solar cooking can bring peace and dignity to women’s lives. What impact I wonder could our own creativity provide for people at the margins?


Having Fun Cooking

Mediterranean diet pyramid

Mediterranean diet food pyramid

One of the things that I always like to do to relax after a long trip is to get into the kitchen and cook. Replenishing supplies like my breakfast granola and eggplant dip (baba Ghannouj) which have become staples for our Mediterranean style diet are always fun. I have posted the granola recipe before, but thought that some of you may would appreciate this very healthy version of Baba Ghannouj too. I took my original recipe and added the pepper which I think gives it a richer flavour and the yoghurt adds a nice tang. If you like it hot at a 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper powder too. It makes a great lunch spread or addition to a Middle Eastern meal.

1 medium sized eggplant

1 red pepper (capsicum)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup taheen, (sesame paste)

1/2 cup yoghurt (Greek style preferable)

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

2 spring onions finely chopped

2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Wash and dry eggplant and pepper. Prick eggplant with fork in 3 -4 place. Place eggplant and pepper on a baking sheet and broil (grill) 4 inches away from heat, turning them on all sides until the skin is charred. 20- 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel off skin, cut off stem and deseed pepper. Chop eggplant and pepper finely by hand and mash eggplant pulp or blend garlic, pepper and eggplant in a blender until smooth. Combine lemon juice, yoghurt, and salt. Add to eggplant mix. Blend in taheen, mix well. Add spring onions and parsley. Place on a serving plate and drizzle oil over it.


Enterprise employs immigrants to teach cooking classes and culture

Here is another great idea that shows creative imagination in the development of business.  Read about Culture Kitchen

Culture Kitchen

Culture Kitchen in San Francisco connects local food lovers to immigrant women, to learn to cook authentic, ethnic cuisine from the “experts”.

Could You Host a Gathering Place dinner?

A couple of weeks ago we held our first Taste of the Mustard Seed event in Seattle.  One of the attendees was our friend, TV cooking personality Graham Kerr, once known as the Galloping Gourmet .  Graham was so excited about what we are doing that he has gifted us with 1,000 copies of his book The Gathering Place, to help us launch the Mustard Seed Village. This book is an exciting collection of menus from around the world designed to bring all of us back to the dining table to share delicious food and warm companionship.

Graham is inviting all of us to host Gathering Place dinners at which we share food and companionship while learning about the Mustard Seed Village of the future. Each host will receive a copy of The Gathering Place to assist them in planning the dinner.  Graham suggests you invite each guest to contribute a dish prepared from one of the menus in the book.

Hosts would also receive a packet of information about Mustard Seed Associates and the launch of the Mustard Seed Village which could be discussed during the meal.  At the end of the meal guests would be invited to prayerfully consider contributing a gift to help us launch this important venture.

This type of small hospitality gathering is very much in keeping with our approach at Mustard Seed Associates.  We already have enthusiastic supporters who are planning meals throughout the the U.S and Canada and invite you to join them.  Please email me today, leave a comment on this blog post or call us at 206 524 2111 for your Gathering Place host resource kit.

For those of you who are not familiar with Graham here is a video of of him cooking with Johnny Carson many years ago.  I still don’t think there is a TV cook as entertaining.

What Do We do With All the Tomatoes?

Brandy Boy tomatoes - delicious

Brandy Boy tomatoes - delicious

Yesterday I posted a twitter update that read “Enjoying the aroma of drying tomatoes.”  Unfortunately some of my facebook friends interpreted that as “dying tomatoes”  and so there have been a few rather pointed comments about the state of my garden.  That of course made me realize that I have been rather silent about what is happening in the garden over the summer – partly because the summer garden seems to keep growing and producing without me needing to do anything at all except wander around admiring the flowers and the growing produce.

Of course there is always watering to be done but most of the time that is a delight rather than a chore as it gives me an opportunity to admire the fruits of our spring labours.  This year has been an exceptionally hot summer in Seattle contrasting with the record cold winter that preceded it – record hot July temperatures contrasted with record cold January which has meant that the garden has produced a little differently from previous years

We are enjoying wonderful tomatoes – especially the new Brandy boy we tried this year.  It is similar to the Armish heirloom Brandywine but on smaller plants and a couple of weeks earlier production which is a real plus here in the Pacific NW.  It has certainly produced big beautiful and delicious tomatoes – many of them weighing more than a pound each.  We have had many feasts of sandwiches;  Our favourite recipes begin with a good loaf of crusty white Italian bread:

Fry some bacon (wish we could get good English bacon here), place on bread, cover with cheddar cheese and melt under the grill.  Top with big slices of the sweetest tomato you can find, sweet onion and avocado.  Spread another slice of bread with mayo or mustard for the top slice of the sandwich and enjoy.  Best eaten with good potato chips.

For a vegetarian version grill slices of summer squash and big portabello mushrooms and use in place of the bacon.

I also bottle lots of marinara sauce and dry lots of cherry tomatoes at this time – wonderful packed in olive oil with herbs and garlic.  We use them in omelettes, salads and pasta dishes over the winter.

Colouring as a Spiritual Practice

Greets from a cool and overcast Seattle.  My beans are growing, tomatoes ripening and squash proliferating.  Last night I was furiously processing some of the produce before Tom and I head out of town tomorrow afternoon for a few days – made 2 Hunza pies and a cheesy tomato bake to take with us.  Dried my first jarful of cherry tomatoes too.  Keep watching the plants anxiously hoping they will be as prolific as last year.  Used squash, tomatoes, chard, garlic and herbs from the garden.  We are heading into Canada so cannot take fresh produce but the pies looked so good I was tempted to eat them immediately but then Tom made his version of BLTs for dinner and I changed my mind.. delicious.

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells

Today’s post in the What is a Spiritual Practice Series is by Danielle Grubb Shroyer.  Danielle is the pastor of Journey Church in Dallas.  She is the author of The Boundary-Breaking God:  An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and speaks often on issues of theology, church leadership and emerging communities of faith. She blogs at danielleshroyer.com You might also like to check out this post on her blog Hermeneutics as Art gives another thoughtful perspective on a different aspect of art and faith.

I love to color.  I realize this is convenient when I have two young children who still find it an enjoyable activity while many of you probably cannot remember the last time you picked up a seafoam green Crayola.  But coloring for me isn’t just a mom activity.  I have always found something wonderfully calming about sprawling on the floor with a brand new box of crayons.  The somewhat repetitive motion of coloring back and forth and that swoosh-swoosh-swoosh sound the crayons make on the paper does wonders to clear my head and help me regain my focus.  I remember specifically one instance in college when I was overly stressed about a Hebrew midterm I had coming up.  My roommates came home and found me in the living room armed with cookies and a coloring book and wondered if perhaps I had lost my mind.  Actually, I was trying to find it.  And I dare say it worked.  It gave me a break from the chatter in my own head, the incessant onslaught of thoughts and ideas.  Coloring feels, for me, very much like the beginning of a yoga session when you begin to focus on your breathing instead of your task list.  And wondrously, the intentional narrowing of focus gives freedom again for your mind to return to its work with clarity and renewed purpose.

You can imagine I was thrilled to discover one day while roaming Barnes and Noble a wonderful little book called <em>Praying In Color</em>, where author Sybil MacBeth describes her practice of coloring as a form of prayer.  For someone whose wordiness and word-centeredness often dominates, the idea of allowing colors and shapes (and perhaps, the occasional word or name) to do the praying for me was a welcome balance.  And it helped me realize that all those times I set my bickering children down in front of a jumbo coloring page and smiled as I watched their frustrations melt away, the times when my own stress began creeping up my shoulders and I fought back with aquamarine crayon in hand, these were acts of spiritual discipline.  They were ways of redirecting our hearts and minds toward a more peaceful place.

Recently I went on a weekend prayer retreat and the spiritual director laid out pages of mandalas and boxes of colored pencils for us to use during our down times.  She said the practice of coloring these symmetrical patterns has been used for thousands of years as a way of helping people organize their thoughts, calm their minds and create a sense of peace.  The colors we choose to use also make us aware of how we are feeling, and perhaps more capable of doing something productive about it.  I had not colored with mandalas before, and I have to say they did provide a very prayerful, meditative time.  But if you happen to be in a pinch, your daughter’s Strawberry Shortcake coloring book might work just fine, too.

Anyone Can Cook: Spirituality in the Kitchen

This morning’s post for the What is a Spiritual Practice? was contributed by John O’Hara.  John is family ministries pastor at Sequoyah Community Church in Oakland CA


It might just be the last honest place left. A sanctuary built into our living spaces that frees us to roll up our sleeves and creatively interact with the yield from God’s good creation, the kitchen calls us to a universal vocation and a spiritual exercise.

We cook for a variety of reasons, both noble and ignoble, sacred and common. It’s a practice that cuts across the boundaries of culture, class, religion, ethnicity and gender. It is a uniquely human pursuit and a universal experience that creates for us a bond which transcends all artificial lines of division. To cook is an exercise that teaches us to live with creation – and to live in sync with the rhythms of the Creator, if we are patient enough to wait for that goodness to flow our way. Often the temptation comes to circumvent this rhythm and flow; and it usually manifests in the towering backlit signs of fast-food drive through windows piercing the darkness of our hungry and hurried world, or in the form of fruits and vegetables shipped halfway across the earth to fulfill our dietary whims and industrial carbon quotas. How we eat what we eat and why we eat it are, beneath the surface and beyond the glittering reverberations of advertisers, spiritual questions that deserve the kind of wrestling and soul-searching normally reserved for prayer meetings and seminary classrooms. We have an existential relationship with other living things: we grow, we live, we die, we feed others from the stuff of our existence. Our relationship to food is a touchpoint for that world to which we mystically and metaphysically belong.

When I am in the kitchen, I am aware that I am preparing something real and visceral, something to be broken and consumed, enjoyed and shared. More than a mere illustration of something spiritual, it is spiritual in its’ very essence. When the Church of Jesus was in its’ infancy, the Acts narrative points to people making a daily discipline of worship and meals shared. Somehow I feel that we have lost our way in the fog of our industrialized efficiencies. Quick trips to the super warehouse mega store to pick up a slab of this and a pound of that – or more threateningly, something food-ish that has already been prepared, packaged and preheated and frozen in a factory before it reaches us – reduces us to a kind of two-dimensionality, to the vocation of a consumer; when instead we are so much more complex and beautiful creatures who were designed to participate in the food chain, not just feed off the top of it like some glorified trough. What we gain in convenience through supermarkets and fast food, we lose in the quality and tenor of that relationship to what we consume. In the preparation of food, in choosing foods that are local and in season, we are fractionally returning to a more vibrant stewardship over creation. One cannot help but imagine that doing so enhances our worship relationship with the Creator.

How Do We Form Community?

Well there has been quite a discussion about my zucchini muffin recipe though mainly through email and on facebook.  Joy’s comment about how much more fun it is to cook together has made me think alot about the value of community in mundane everyday tasks like this.  Cooking was once a community affair.  Women gathered at the community oven to bake bread and cook meals.  They walked together to collect water – of course in many parts of the world they still do.  The men hunted together, and the women gathered berries and nuts together.  They worked together out in the fields and of course the highlight of the week was often the village market at which people gathered not only from the village itself to share life and produce but those from other villages often joined in too.

The preparation of food was part of the community life of a village that drew people together in mutually co-operative and supportive ways.  A friend of mine who worked in Africa once told me that when she shared with the women in a village she visited that we all had water piped into our houses their first reactuib was “How lonely when do you talk to each other?”

What have we lost by our modern lifestyles where everything we do is geared to efficiency and convenience rather than to socializing and being community together?  A few things are obviousl.  We have moved from co-operation to competitiveness, from mutual care to selfcenteredness, community to isolation and loneliness.  But I think there are other more subtle things we have lost because of our growing isolation and individualism.  We have lost even simple things like the joy of working together and the wonder of laughter shared over a cooking stove.  We have lost the generosity of sharing when we produce more than we can consume ourselves.  And probably most insidious of all we have lost the security of belonging. So much of Jesus time with his disciples revolved around meals – not just the eating of them but the preparation of them too.  Lessons are learned and valued because they are learned through the interactions of everyday life.  That is part of what we see in the feeding of the 5,000, in the story of Mary and Martha, and in Jesus preparing breakfast on the beach for his friends.

What are you aware of that you have lost because of lack of community or what have you gained because of your involvement in community?

Zucchini Anyone?

About this time of the year here in Seattle people start to look askance any time that you mention zucchini – it seems to proliferate wherever you look.  This year it is a little late but it is still there.  For most people it is a little overwhelming but as far as I am concerned you cannot get too much of it.  Everyone seemed to enjoy my chocolate zucchini muffins  so much (we actually had them for dessert on Sunday) that I thought I would share another of my favourite zucchini recipes.  I call these granola muffins because I make them in huge batches and freeze them.

When Tom & I travel I can grab a few for those early morning plane trips on which one no longer gets breakfast.  If you are on a tight budget this is a great way to save a little money.  I estimate that making the muffins they probably cost about 20 cents each – if you bought them at the airport they would cost anything from $1 – $2 each and I don’t think that the bought ones are nearly as good.  When I travel on my own I often throw in some extras for breakfast because I hate sitting in a restaurant on my own particularly in the early morning.  They are also great for when unexpected guests arrive – I always think that a cup of tea is not complete without something to eat with it.  Enjoy!
MMMMM—– Recipe via Meal-Master ™ v8.06 by AccuChef ™ http://www.AccuChef.com

Title: Oatmeal, Zucchini & Cranberry Muffins
Categories: Muffins
Yield: 45 Servings

2 c  Wheat Flour
4 c  Rolled Oats
4 t  cinnamon
4 c  grated zucchini,Or 2 Cups
-Zucchini & 2 Carrot
1 1/2 c  Brown Sugar
2 t  Baking Soda
4 t  baking powder
1 c  Pumpkin Seeds,Or Sunflower
1 c  Cranberries,,Dried
1 c  pecans,Chopped
1 c  Applesauce
1 c  Yoghurt
4    Eggs,Lightly Beaten
1 c  vegetable oil
2 t  vanilla extract
2    Bananas,Over ripe Mashed
2 c  All Purpose Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin cups Into a large bowl,
sift together the flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking soda, baking powder,
cinnamon. Stir in the  zucchini, pumpkin  seeds, cranberries, pecans,
and applesauce . In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs,
yoghurt , and vanilla. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, stirring
the batter until just combined. Spoon the batter into greased cups.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes for mini muffins and 25 to 30 minutes for
regular muffins or until springy to the touch. Let muffins cool in tins
and turn them onto a wire rack.

PS -can substitute 2 cups carrot grated for 2 cups of zucchini

Cost Total Recipe = $9.88  Cost Per Serving = $0.21

Per Serving: 190 Cal (37% from Fat, 9% from Protein, 54% from Carb); 4
g Protein; 8 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 3 g Mono Fat; 27 g Carb; 3 g Fiber;
11 g Sugar; 59 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 118 mg Sodium; 22 mg Cholesterol;
AccuPoints = 3.9