Sometimes, the best ideas come from things that don’t happen.
The grocery bags were filled with all the things needed for family dinner – the time on Sunday nights when folks gather ‘round the table to talk about life and love and dreams and how Jesus weaves in and out through all of them. Some folks say hospitality is a spiritual gift, I beg to differ. I think there are most certainly gifts that are divinely inspired – mine are exhortation, leadership, and wisdom (though I question the last one quite often when I can’t find my glasses while they’re sitting on my face) – but I believe hospitality is a discipline to be practiced by each and every one of us. It’s sprinkled all throughout scripture – in Romans 12, we are told to be kind to everyone and extend hospitality to strangers, and in Hebrews 13, it says that our hospitality may even be brightening the day of angels. Hospitality goes far beyond hanging out with friends. It means caring for strangers, refugees, widows, orphans, wayfaring travelers in need of a little kindness. It even means treating our enemies with kindness.
On Sundays, that family dinner time is hospitality practice for Brad and me. Finding out small details about what people enjoy in a meal, letting conversations ebb and flow rather, being comfortable with silent moments, tending to the realities of life that walk through the door – all those things have shaped us. Menus are a big thing for me. I’ve learned to take risks, be more flexible, and celebrate whatever comes out of the kitchen.
Sunday’s menu was a special request: chicken and chorizo pie. Brad and I fell in love with it at a pub in London, and it was a hit when we made it the first time for family dinner. The bags were filled with chicken breasts, Spanish chorizo, mushrooms, butternut squash, carrots, green beans, and fresh pineapple and strawberries (I was going to make a quick shortcake with fresh fruit for dessert).
And then I got the text.
“So sorry for the last-minute notice, but we can’t come to dinner now. I’m so sorry. I hope this doesn’t mess things up.”
I breathed deeply and thought, “what would hospitality do?”
Hospitality would find new ways. Simple ways. Fun ways.
Hospitality would cook mushrooms and pop them in the fridge for another day.
Hospitality would pray about another meal. Hospitality would find new recipes so Brad could play with his new toy, a hefty outdoor oven/grill thing.
Hospitality would invite a 2-year old to dinner so she could play with a furry pup and chase bubbles.
And so, this is the story of Kaia’s happy meal. It’s not just for kids – the grown-ups liked it too. And you’ll like it. This is also the greater story of hospitality, a story I’m still learning through practice. Hospitality bends. It doesn’t break when plans change. It believes God has another idea in mind. It gathers and pours in a new direction.
We’ll get there. I know we will.
Now, for Kaia’s happy meal menu. It starts with BabyBell Mozzarella cheese, because that was handy in the fridge and Kaia was ready to eat when she arrived. She noshed on her tiny cheese while we chopped apples for the salad.
That salad included baby kale, some Granny Smith apples, chopped pistachios, carrots, and butternut squash. Yes, the squash that was going to be in the pie was cubed, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, and then roasted at 350 until it was tender with a little hint of brown on the edges.
We ate the salad. Kaia opted for her butternut squash as a side.
The chicken that was going to partner up with the chorizo in the pie was grilled instead. Two things made it amazing:
First, brine that bird. Place your chicken breasts (or whatever you choose to use) in a bowl, and then add 6 cups of water with ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup salt. Refrigerate for at least two hours, and then remove the chicken from the brining mixture and blot with a paper towel.
Then, use this herb and spice rub.
Maybe we’ll call it Kaia’s rub.
3 T. smoked paprika
3 T. ground sage
1-1/2 T. garlic powder
1 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
3-4 T. freshly chopped rosemary
Mix the dry spices in a bowl (I used a pestle to really blend the spices together), and then add the freshly chopped rosemary. Rub onto the chicken breasts and let sit for 20 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil, squeeze some lemon juice, and then grill until done with a lovely char. (In case you’re wondering, that chorizo is in the fridge and will be used for the pie which is being baked in just a few days because it’s time family dinner time again).
Now, the only thing Kaia wasn’t ready to try was the mushrooms. But the grown-ups loved them, and they are so easy to make.
Simple Sautéed Mushrooms
1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 package Lipton French Onion soup mix
½ cup dry white or Rosé wine
In a large skillet, place the mushrooms, broth, and the soup mix. Cook on medium heat until the liquid has cooked down to a sauce. Add wine and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. Honestly, that’s it. The mushrooms are incredibly flavorful and there’s not a bit of butter in them.
Finally, for dessert, Kaia loves fruit so we kept it simple. She picked out the bowls – she got and her mommy got “bwoo.” Strawberries and ice cream were paired with grilled pineapple and a quick sauce made from brown sugar, vanilla, and lime. It’s Alton Brown’s recipe, and it’s a winner. And if you’ve never had grilled pineapple, it’s time to give it a try. Something magical happens to it. Pure magic.
I’d love to know about your practices of hospitality. And when it comes to practicing it at the table, you are invited to CasaRock. Honestly, we’d love to have a good meal and great conversation with you sometime. We’re in this together, for real.
Now, take a moment and do a little happy dance. Because bubbles are truly everything.