Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Weekend with Mom and Dad

My parents came to visit this last weekend from Thursday to Sunday. They did all kinds of nice things for me while they were here: took my car through emissions (it passed!), got my car's oil changed, helped me put new (soft and warm!) flannel sheets on my bed, bought me an awesome bike helmet for summer biking excursions, helped me with my taxes, etc. It's so nice to have parents.

Most of all, I appreciated the companionship of two people I know so well. I get used to doing things alone. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing--indeed, I love spending time alone with my thoughts and prayers--it's also wonderful to share daily life with others. It was so much fun to show my parents places I frequent as part of my daily life here in Spokane. One morning we walked down to the Little Spokane River. Another morning we visited Le Petit Chat bakery for a loaf of fresh bread and Egger's Meats for a four-pound chuck roast destined to become a Friday evening pot roast supper. Our time together reminded me of this quote from the novel Mrs. Miniver:

"This was the cream of marriage, this nightly turning out of the day's pocketful of memories, this deft habitual sharing of two pairs of eyes, two pairs of ears. It gave you, in a sense, almost a double life: though never, on the other hand, quite a single one.” 

The quote refers to marriage, but I believe we can also share this kind of relationship with true friends and beloved family. I certainly experienced it this weekend.

And, of course, this wouldn't be Elizabeth Brink's blog without some detail about the food we ate. (If you're tempted to replace "some" with "incredibly exhaustive," you're probably right.) But don't worry! I have pictures to lend some excitement. :)

Here's the four-pound chuck roast about ready to go in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. I wanted to try making the roast with red wine, so I bought some two-buck Chuck at Trader Joe's. After browning the roast in the pot and moving it to a plate, you pour in a cup of red wine and scrap off the browned bits on the bottom of the pan to flavor the wine. Then you add the roast back in with beef stock, halved onions, and fresh rosemary and thyme. Let me tell you, the gravy from this roast was SO GOOD.

Here's the full meal: rolls stuffed with cheddar and sweet onion, the roast with carrots and onions, mashed potatoes, and the delicious gravy. And below are my parents getting ready to enjoy the meal!

I loved making this big meal for my parents. It fed us Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday night, and I made a whole casserole with the leftover roast meat that I've been eating this week. Plus, the meal was warm and filling and delicious. Just what a meal with beloved family should be.

Since I don't get to spend my dad's birthday with him in April, my mom and I made him his favorite dessert: Lemon Meringue pie. And much to his delight, I sent five pieces home with him on Sunday, so I wouldn't ruin my Lenten fast (no dessert).  

To celebrate my birthday (also in April), my parents took me to a restaurant in downtown Spokane called Sante, which is French for health. I've been wanting to try this restaurant for ages because they serve seasonal meals, use locally sourced ingredients where possible, and make their own charcuterie. We ordered a plate of their house-seasoned salami. It came on the plate above with grilled bread, brie, port-soaked raisins, and homemade mustard. This was my favorite part of the meal. The combination of all the ingredients was absolutely delicious. The mustard was wonderfully flavorful. My dad liked it so much he bought a pint of it, so I now have a half-pint in my fridge waiting to be put to a wonderful culinary use.

My mom ordered a delicious bowl of Delicata Squash soup that came drizzled with creme fraiche and local honey and sprinkled with a bit of cayenne pepper.

My dad and I both got delicious sandwiches with side salads. I thought the service was excellent and the staff was friendly and helpful. It inspired me to be creative in the kitchen again and to savor my food. I think I know where I'm going for my actual birthday now, too. :)
Overall, it was a wonderful weekend and now my parents are in southern California visiting their other daughter. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Recently, I've been missing England. It could be because I'm neck deep in season three of Downton Abbey. Or because I never get a decent cup of tea here except at my college mentor's house. I even had a dream recently that I was in England with a giant list of activities planned out. Having studied abroad in Great Britain, I know exactly the places to which I would (and wouldn't) return.

I particularly thought of England today for two reasons. The first is that when the weather is good, I drive through the countryside to get to church, which is about 15 minutes north of my house. There is one spot on the drive where the Little Spokane River looks a lot like a spot my study group hiked to in Wales. Here's a photo from the hike:

There is also a walking trail down to the Little Spokane River about a mile from my house. I walked to the river on the trail this afternoon. There's something about the rushing water and the leaf mold smell and the fresh, clean air of the trail that brings beautiful memories to the forefront of my mind: memories of my grandpa's farm and the Columbia River Gorge and the walks I took in England in the Cotswolds and the Lake District. I think these places are the building blocks of many of my most poignant memories of creation's beauty.
When I was shielding my eyes from the bright sun and looking out over the river and the marshes and trees this afternoon, I identified the emotion I was feeling. Sehnsucht. C.S. Lewis is known particularly for his use of this word. Sehnsucht at its essence means a yearning or longing for beauty and goodness that cannot be satisfied through human experience. Lewis uses the term sehnsucht as an anchor for his autobiography Surprised by Joy, pointing to instances throughout his life in which he encountered beauty that left him longing for more. At the river today, I realized that God uses Sehnsucht for the purpose of drawing us to the end of ourselves. When we yearn for beauty beyond what we see and experience on earth (the nagging Sehnsucht), we realize that it is the beautiful reality of the Trinity--Living God, Word-Made-Flesh, Life-Giving Spirit--for which we ultimately long.   
The second reason for thinking of England today (by now you've likely forgotten there was a second point!) is that I made Cornish pasties (pass-tees) for dinner from an English cookbook called River Cottage Every DayRiver Cottage is also the name of an English cooking show I watch on YouTube. When I tell people this, they usually make a strange face and say something like "Why would you want to watch an English cooking show?" Whatever your stereotype of English food is, the Cornish pasty is a tradition that's worth keeping. River Cottage Every Day has recipes for three pasties, so I made the vegetarian filling with lentils and butternut squash (and a little too much mustard, but oh well). They looked so lovely and authentic that I had to take some photos:

Like a pasty, you got all the "meat" of this blog in the middle. I'm sure that you, too, have experiences both of beauty and of Sehnsucht. As always, I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments section, over e-mail (even better), or in person (best!). May the beauty of this life always draw us into the beauty of God and may we be especially aware of beauty as signs of spring begin to emerge!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Declare February to be Freezer-Emptying Month

My blog tends to catch me at the highs or lows of life. I'm particularly tired tonight, and I think it's because I've had several particularly long days of work and lots of desserts in the past few days. A couple people at lunch today at Partners hypothesized that eating sugar makes one feel groggy and sluggish. I've given up sugar for Lent at least twice before, and it's my plan again this year. I'm actually quite looking forward to it. Sometimes food can be a kind of bondage and fasting has a great way of freeing us.

As part of this Lenten initiative, I decided that I would try to use up what's in my chest freezer downstairs. The majority of what's in there is chicken broth, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and peaches, so this is going to be a fruit-sweet month. Good timing! I will keep you informed of my progress in emptying my freezer.

I have found two creative uses for my freezer food this Monday. I'm hosting a children's ministry committee meeting for church. The other challenge in making this meal is that our group has a vegetarian, two gluten intolerant folks, and one person who avoids dairy. After much deliberation, I decided to make a pot of chili with tomatoes from my freezer. To this, people can add in sour cream, shredded cheese (also from the freezer), and onions and/or scoop up chili with gluten-free Fritos or corn tortilla chips. I'll make a big salad with a balsamic dressing. For dessert, I'm going to serve vanilla ice cream (thank you Tillamook and Fred Meyer for the sale this week!) with lightly thawed peaches and blueberries and homemade hot fudge sauce. Yum! I'm also making a gluten-free, no-bake cookie that has cornflakes, peanut butter, and butterscotch chips.

It sounds extensive, but it's really a ridiculously easy meal for company since so much can be prepared a day or two before. So, slowly but surely, I will clear out the old in the freezer and make room for the new.

Tonight, I volunteered with a friend from church at the Mead Food Bank. We packaged food based on the number of family members. I was in charge of the fruit station. I grabbed a random can and happened to look at it before putting it on the scale: shoestring beets. I almost gagged. I sneakily moved that can to the back and grabbed a can of sliced peaches instead. As I continued to pile cans of fruit cocktail, applesauce, and pears in plastic bags, I had to wonder. Since when did I become so fortunate that I had so much wonderful, fresh/frozen fruit in my freezer? Volunteering, like walking and fasting, gave me a new perspective.

I'm praying that this Lent will be all about new perspectives. I need a new perspective on my sinfulness, so that I understand Christ's mercy and grace more fully. I need a new perspective on life to realize anew that life is enriched by love of God and others. I need a refreshed view of food as something to enjoy in its proper place. Lent is about stripping away the old to bring in the new life of Christ, and I'm ready for it.

How do you plan to mark the season of Lent? Will you add a discipline? Give up a negative habit? I'd love to hear more about your plan.