Thursday, October 30, 2014

Some Days Require Chocolate Pudding.

This is not one of my allegory posts. Just pudding. No pictures because too busy eating.

Base recipe is Tyler Florence's, but I switched out ingredients some.

1 cup nonfat milk (I don't have whole milk in the house. Stick with me.)
1/2 c. heavy cream (left over from the mushroom soup Monday)
1/2 c. brewed coffee 
1/3 c. sugar (could probably reduce further, but not sure what it might do to consistency)
1/3 c. good cocoa powder, sifted
3 large egg yolks
3 t. vanilla extract
4 teaspoons cornstarch1/4 t. salt
A few shakes of chipotle Cholula or chipotle Tabasco
Pinch or two kosher salt

1: Mix together the milk, cream, and coffee. Pour 1 1/2 cups of it into a saucepan (nonstick makes your life easier) and heat over medium heat. Add in the sugar and cocoa. Stir occasionally until it comes up to a simmer.

2: While the milk is heating, separate the eggs. Add the egg yolks to the reserved 1/2 cup milk-coffee and whisk well. Add the vanilla, 1/4 t. salt, and cornstarch and blend thoroughly.

Once 1 is simmering, add it slowly to 2, whisking constantly. If you're impatient you may get little scrambled eggs in there. When that all comes together, return it to the saucepan and simmer for a few minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened. Add a few shakes of your chipotle hot sauce of choice.

Put the pudding into cups/bowls, sprinkle with kosher salt, and refrigerate until they are chilled through.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Strengthening Our Resolve

"I'm not worried about churches in our tradition conforming to the culture. I'm worried about them not effectively engaging the culture," Moore said in an interview. "We have to be able to speak with conviction about what we believe. We have to speak to people."

The Moore referred to in this article is The Rev. Russell Moore, an organizer of this week's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission National Conference.
According to the photo caption of the article, "Southern Baptists organized the three-day event to strengthen the resolve of Christians preaching the increasingly unpopular view that gay relationships are sinful."

To put it mildly, I disagree with their assertion that gay relationships are sinful, and I disagree with an awful lot of this article.

But yeowza, YES-- engaging the culture, speaking our beliefs with conviction--that's good good stuff for all of us. I think the conforming to culture is a danger for all people, regardless of their faith, and I am inspired by the idea of a dedicating several days to strengthening resolve on a single issue.

First thing, of course, we would need to agree to that single issue...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Cook's Illustrated Teaches Me About Ministry

The latest issue of Cook's Illustrated is a reaaaaaally good issue--I intend to try almost every recipe, except one that would set off my shrimp allergy. 

The same day I opened the magazine, I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients for their mushroom bisque recipe. I adore mushrooms and I really liked the write-up.

See, I adore the way the test kitchen folks approach a dish.

They consider what they're looking for--what would the optimal mushroom bisque feel like? Taste like? How much time are we willing to spend? How much money?

Then it's time to start cooking. Sometimes they try several recipes they've found, and sometimes they just make a basic batch of the item.

And they have taste tests and consider how it works with the criteria they've determined. They identify surprises and problems and consider how to refine what they're doing.

Then they set out on their own recipe--sometimes coming up with some colossal failures. They tweak and tweak, more taste tests and technique shifts, until they get it where they think it best matches their criteria. And even then, they sometimes revisit techniques and ingredients in years to come.

In this case, they had to figure out a reasonable mix of mushrooms, how to make the dish taste more of mushrooms than cream or chicken stock, and their wild and crazy finding? You could skip the time-consuming step of slicing the mushrooms, and just microwave them to pull out enough of the moisture to get good browning. (No worries--that reserved mushroom essence was returned to the pot.)

So, what would America's* Test Congregation look like?

  • Clarity around what they're looking for
  • Considering what's already out there, and what they think they know
  • Checking in and getting the opinions of a variety of stakeholders
  • Realizing that failure is an opportunity for lessons, not the end of the world
  • Willingness to try something outside the norm
  • Knowing that this stuff is DELICIOUS!
  • Sharing their results
  • Coming back to their program from time to time, considering what might be tweaked

*The PBS show related to the magazine is America's Test Kitchen. I'm riffing on that, not purposely excluding my colleagues outside the US.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Technical Difficulties

My netbook and I have had a good four years or so, but we'll just say that it's been through a lot. My dog knocked off the down key ages ago. It's on its third or fourth or fifth battery. It's getting slow.

And yet I am loathe to do the research for a replacement. So many questions and considerations, price ranges and features. And then the setups to get the right software and settings and whatnot. Exhausting.

That's the sort of energy I need to be putting into this planning for this year's National Novel Writing Month project.

At the same time, it would be a big kick in the pants to write my next novel without a personal (and mobile) computer.

So maybe I need to make the time. Before Friday night?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Calm That Is "How It's Made"

Most of their lives, my sons have been big fans of "How It's Made" .This Canadian show takes just a few minutes to show us the steps involved in producing some item, from a Faberge-type egg to a shop vac. 

The boys loved learning things and seeing all the tools and assembly lines and robots in action.

Why am I such a fan? Well, have you ever been too tired to read, but not able to sleep yet?

"How It's Made" is perfect for that. The relaxing-yet-groovy soundtrack, the calm voice of the narrator, and the clear steps of a process--it's sort of like a golf nap, but with a sense of completion.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Words words words

If you wear a Fitbit or similar device, your motion and sleep and whatnot can be automatically tracked.

Is there a similar device counting words uttered in a day? It would need to be more accurate than my current voice recognition software, and able to track just one voice as opposed to all sides of a conversation.

Still- do I use more words in a day than I step? Are some days more vocal than others?
What blessings might I find in a totally silent day?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Today's Experiment

Email, they say, is a flat communication. Hard to fit in emotions, especially positive ones. If anything, things get read with a negative angle.

So today as an experiment, I poured a bunch of love into a set of emails. Specifically telling stories of my favorite things about people. Utterly truthful, mind you.

I can't even guarantee that everyone will read their emails, but thus far the response has been good.

May the trend continue.