The Gleeful Gourmand: December 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Snow Day With The Son Of God

I was honored when my dear friend Kirsten Oliphant asked me to be a part of her Voices In The Desert  - a collection of writers musing each day of Advent on the Good News of Jesus Christ, and what Christmas means to them. I struggled with what to write, until one day I was listening to one of my favorite artists, Mindy Smith, sing a new Christmas song, "Snowed In," and inspiration struck. Thanks for reading!

I don't remember how old I was, though I can be certain that it was before High School, and most likely just before Middle School. I was old enough to be turned loose without much worry from my parents, but young enough that sledding all day long with barely a break still seemed like a great idea.

I remember standing on top of the hill near our house. It was actually the green of the 12th hole of the golf course we lived on, and the hill was perfect. It was incredibly steep, wide enough for tons of kids and parents alike, and a short walk from our house. The afternoon was coming to a close, and dusk was settling in, the light softening from a bleak gray to a hazy dark blue. Most of the other kids had already gone home, and I stood at the top of the hill, clutching my sled in my gloved hands. I was freezing, my toes aching with regret at having stayed out too long. I watched the last kids slide down, and just as I was about to follow, it suddenly started to snow. I turned my face to the sky and let the flakes, big and wet, light gently on my face. The world was hushed, the shrieks and laughter from the other kids faded away. The moment felt…holy. Perfect. Sacred.

Up until then it never occurred to me that snow could make a person feel closer to God. Of course I think snow is visually beautiful; a masterpiece when the sun hits the snow and it sparkles like millions of tiny gems. But also, the stillness that comes over the world when it's blanketed in snow is magical. The sound of rushing cars is ceased; that ambient noise that goes ever on even though we barely notice it. When it snows, its absence isn't deafening, it's soothing. Before the kiddos are bundled up and thrown outside, screaming in joy, there's just pure silence.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

One of my most favorite singer/songwriters is Mindy Smith, and this year she came out with a fantastic Christmas EP follow-up to her brilliant "My Holiday" album called "Snowed In." The title song is arguably the best on the small album (listen to it below), and she talks about the one thing on her Christmas wish list is to be snowed in with a favorite loved one, listening to music, watching the lights on the tree change, and unplugging from the world. It's a gorgeous song, full of the reminders that during the busy rush and bustle of the Christmas season, the greatest joy we can derive is often the moments when we're just spending time with the ones we love.

Snow days have a way of doing that. When school is cancelled and the roads are too bad to go into work, the time is there to simply enjoy. To turn off the rest of the world, as Smith sings, and unplug. Smith remarked in an interview that she wrote the song about the relationship she's in right now, but that really her words could apply to anyone: kids and parents, grandparents, friends, anyone you'd want to spend a day with, unencumbered by the busyness of the world. Snowed in with nowhere to go and nothing to do but to enjoy the love and the beauty of the moment.

That got me thinking: What if that person was the Son of God? What if I had one day, snowed in with Jesus? What might that day look like? I have so many questions for Jesus, so I know my first instinct would be to rattle them all off, one by one. My second instinct would be like Martha, rushing around trying to make everything perfect. Both of those things would be missing the point completely. But what is the point?

"He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God.' I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

What would it mean to change my expectations, my wants and needs from the Son of Man? To not ask Him for anything. To not have questions answered. To simply be with Him, and enjoy the day. Smith sings, "The present to get for me, is having you all day. All I'm longing for is already here. And truly, you're all that I want this year."

What would that mean if I really, truly meant that? That resting in Him is enough. That His salvation alone is enough. That even if He never answered my questions, even if He never answered my prayers (which He has, on multiple occasions), that He is already enough for me, and the only thing I really long for - not just at Christmas, or on a snow day, but all year - is just to be with Him. To not try and micromanage Him. To change my expectations of my relationship with Him, so that all year long He's all that I need.

God already calls to us 365 days during the year to spend time with Him. To know Him better, to read His word, to cultivate our relationship. The truest miracle is not just the babe lying in a manger, but the mere fact that God desires a real, loving relationship with us at all. It's dumbfounding. I sometimes wonder why He still desires to save us from ourselves, when just by watching the nightly news, it's pretty clear that we've screwed up the world He created thanks to our own selfish ways. And yet, He keeps chasing us. He keeps knocking at the door to our hearts. He calls us back again, and again. Sometimes we answer. Sometimes we don't.

Sometimes we're too busy to answer. "Turn off the phone, the TV and settle in. Turn off the rest of the world, everything." Sometimes that's what it takes to notice that God is right there, desperate to show us something we're missing. Desperate for us to open the door. To put down our phones, turn off the games. To get off the internet, and away from anything that keeps us from spending time with Him, and not just for one hour on Sundays.

That's the beauty of a Snow Day. The glorious magnificence of living art, designed by the Almighty. The beauty of pure silence. Disconnecting so that we can reconnect. If it takes a major snowstorm for us to spend real, true time with Him, then so be it. I think the most glorious part is that it can take the form of whatever we want it to: Spending time in the word, praying, conversing with Him, being still and knowing Him. Or maybe getting out in the world and being His hands and feet. Shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor. Feeding the homeless. Whatever it is that draws you closer to the Lord is what would make up the perfect snow day.

"All I could think to put on my list this Christmas…is you and I snowed in, just us."

May the peace of Jesus, which passes all understanding, bless you and your family this Christmas season.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

F&W's Bourbon-Glazed Turkey

It's six days until Christmas, and the race is on to craft the perfect holiday menu. Six days, and we haven't settled on one thing to serve. Oh, except that I'm supposed to make the Bouche De Noel again. I tried to get out of it by suggesting other things, but apparently that's what the people wanted, so that's what the people are getting.

But everything else is up in the air. Main course? Nothing. Side dishes? Nada. Festive holiday drink? Nil. Nary a decision has been made. Christmas is the meal we typically go all out for. We push the envelope on what we serve because Thanksgiving tends to have a way of making us stick to traditions. People get angry if you start messing around with their Thanksgiving expectations, but in our family the Christmas feast is a culinary free-for-all (except for the damned Yule Log, apparently. I joke, Mom, I joke).

You may be stuck in the same predicament, and I'm about to make a suggestion that will leave you scratching your head: Turkey. Yes. Turkey. Why turkey, I hear you say. Didn't we just have turkey? You may well have had turkey, but you have not had this turkey - a turkey to end all turkeys. A turkey that puts all others to shame. A turkey, that if it had not had all its plumage plucked out would certainly be fanning and fawning over its own greatness.

Plus, I submit the classic line from "The Christmas Song" which quite rightly says, "Everybody knows, a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright." See what I did there?

Bourbon-Glazed Turkey (with Pearl Onion Giblet Gravy).

Bourbon-Glazed Turkey with Pearl Onion Giblet Gravy. We made this recipe from Food & Wine Magazine for Thanksgiving, and oh my goodness, was it amazing. We changed the recipe slightly - instead of the brine they suggested (which uses apple cider - my husband is allergic to apples), we used a different overnight brine which you can find below. The brining is important because that's what gets your turkey so mouthwateringly tender and juicy.

But the best part about this turkey is how it's basted with a bourbon and brown sugar glaze while it cooks, giving it a rich, golden brown hue. I'm not going to lie to you and say it wasn't a lot of work. It was. Needing to be basted every 15 minutes for 3 hours, this turkey takes some TLC. But it's so worth it. The aroma of bourbon, sugar, and butter lovingly bathing the turkey as it roasts is overwhelming. In fact, our house smelled so good I was practically fainting from hunger by lunchtime. It hisses, it pops, it practically sings for you as you watch the skin take on that caramelized glow. But don't be deceived by the perceived richness of the sauce - the bird is also stuffed with all your favorite aromatics like onions, celery, carrots, rosemary and thyme. Softened butter and sage leaves are tucked beneath the skin.

The end result is a turkey that's savory, slightly sweet, and so delicious that it barely needed the gravy, which boasts a whole head of roasted garlic. Christmas Feast indeed!

Honey Turkey Brine Recipe -- Click: Here

Food & Wine's Bourbon-Glazed Turkey -- Click: Here