There’s a lot of talk about going deep and being intentional, about having conversations that don’t dance around the edges of things but instead dive in and look for “the something more” —all the hidden motives and feelings. Trust me, I love rich meaningful talks over a cup of coffee or a glass of something lovely, and I’m unafraid of the “deep dive” stuff. I think about Jesus, and how He was fearless in asking the most thought-provoking questions that opened the door to reflection, redemption, redirection. But I’ve been the one asked awkward questions in front of strangers. Someone literally asked, “Tell us a secret about your relationship with God that no one else knows…” My face pruned, and I remember thinking, “Does my response even matter when these people aren’t part of my life?”
There’s something about sprinkling our words with the salt of simplicity and seasoning our conversations with grace that’s as powerful (and far less intimidating) a healing balm as a list of carefully designed phrases. Asking, “So, how’s it going?” can be as deep a question as “Tell me something you are afraid to share with anyone.” Reminding someone of a gut-level hope that both fixes our hurts and focuses our hearts is a healing thing.
Jesus did that too.
When a woman who had been sick for years reached out to Him, Jesus turned around, looked her in the eye, and simply said, “Be courageous.” He didn’t reduce a blind man’s story to a blame game; Instead, He made medicine from mud and restored his sight. He wept with two sisters distraught over their brother’s death, and then told Lazarus, “It’s not over, friend. Breathe again. There’s still more life to be lived.” There were no trick questions on the morning the resurrected Jesus fixed breakfast and talked to Peter about his future. From, “Do you love Me?” came the invitation, “Help Me love folks well.”
We don’t need to come up with perfectly crafted conversation starters in order to have good conversations. We just need to show up, give our time, lend a listening ear, and respond. Now, at CasaRock, we’re still working on it. There are days that blur by without so much as a “Hey, how’s been your day?” (yes, that’s the way I’ve said it for more than 25 years, and I’m not changing now). There are seasons in which it would be far easier to tuck away fears or worries or big, crazy dreams. Honestly, that’s why #kitchentherapy has been an ongoing love of mine. There’s something about gathering up and pouring out that invites us to share our lives.
The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. (Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine)
So, there is a little wooden box filled with folded slips of paper, sitting on the hutch by the dining table. We don’t pull it out very often, but it’s there just in case we need a reminder of simplicity. Simple pieces of paper, with simple questions.
“How’s your week been so far?”
“What’s a good lesson you can share?”
“Who has made you feel loved lately?”
“What one kind thing would you like to do for someone
before the year is over?”
“What’s the greatest kindness you’ve received this week?”
“Who would you like us to pray for right now?”
(share with someone at the table how they’ve made
a difference in your life)
Salt and seasoning, those questions are. Simple and grace-filled.
Let’s be this to people. Let’s not complicate things. Let’s let simplicity rule and let Jesus do the hope-filled deep-diving. He knows best. And He does it well.
Remember, you are welcome at the table here at CasaRock. I promise, The conversation will be real and the food will be good. The questions will simple and hopeful. And there will be a toast or two.
Maybe we’ll have soup (and the best sandwiches ever, thanks to my dear friend Sarah Harmeyer at Neighbor’s Table). There’s been plenty of it served up as of late. Soup is good food, right? Savor these recipes, friends, and savor the #kitchentherapy.
And hey, share your favorite soup recipes with me so we can give them a try! My friend Stacie just shared two recipes with me that I’m now in love with: creamy chicken noodle soup and smokey black bean. The first is here, for all your soup-loving pleasure! (I’ve now got to try the second). Thank you, Stacie! (you can meet her here on Instagram)
Roasted Butternut Squash and Cider Soup
Makes four entrée portions or 8 appetizers or sides.
10 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cubed
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 carrots, peeled and halved
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock, preferably homemade, divided
2 cups hard, dry cider
2 cups coconut milk, unsweetened
Salt and pepper to taste
Accompaniments: toasted pumpkin seeds, crème fraiche, chopped chives, cornbread croutons, fried sage leaves, pomegranate seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a roasting pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper, and lace the squash pieces on it. Divide the butter and maple syrup evenly amongst the pieces, and add the carrot and onions slices. Roast until all the veggies are tender. Remove from oven and place in large soup pot. Be sure to include the roasting juices.
Add stock and cider, stir well, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and stir uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Puree the soup using an immersion blender, and add coconut milk. Stir well and continue to simmer until rich and thick. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Serve with garnishes (pomegranate seeds, crème fraiche, and chives are our personal favorites)
The Easiest Veggie Soup Ever
Makes enough for a small army.
1 64-ounce bottle V-8 juice (low-sodium is best)
2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small package frozen French-style green beans
1 small package frozen peas and carrots
1 can kidney beans, drained
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, diced finely (or use onion powder)
2 t. Herbs de Provence
1 t. sugar or agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a large soup pot, bring to boil, and then reduce and let simmer until all vegetables are tender.
Amazing Corn Chowder (and it’s VEGAN)
Makes six entree portions or eight side portions.
2 large poblano peppers, roasted, seeded, and very finely diced (approx. 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons olive oil spread
1 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced carrot
2 small Yukon Gold or White potatoes, diced (approx. 2 cups)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
4 cups fresh corn kernels (approx. 4 ears of corn), or 4 cups fresh frozen corn
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
Roast the poblano peppers first. You may use a gas range burner over medium-high heat, or bake them on a cookie sheet under the broiler. No matter what, you must rotate them often with tongs so that the skin will blister and char (but not burn). When all sides are done, pop the peppers in a plastic bag and seal it. The steam will loosen the skin so that it can peel right off (use rubber gloves to make the process super-easy). Once peeled, remove the core and seeds, and then dice the peppers and set aside.
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil spread and sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, celery, potatoes, and all the seasonings, and cook at medium-low heat for another five minutes (stirring constantly). Add corn and vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Cook until all the vegetables are softened (around 30 minutes).
Place half of the soup mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Put it back into the pot with the unblended mixture, stir in the coconut milk and poblano peppers. Continue to simmer until thick and well-blended. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with freshly squeezed lime juice, cilantro, crème fraiche, guacamole, or even a bit of cheese.
Stacie’s Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes six to eight hearty portions, and is also perfect for freezing!
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (feel free to use the pre-minced garlic in a jar)
2-3 Tablespoons neutral oil of your choice
½ to ¾ cup finely chopped celery
1 small bag frozen carrot coins (or feel free to use fresh, if you’d like)
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
5 grinds fresh black pepper
2 bay leaves
4 boxes (4 cups each) reduced sodium chicken broth or stock (16 cups total)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 pkg (24 oz) Reame’s frozen egg noodles (or make your own!)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (or, if you’re in a hurry, rotisserie chicken is a great and tasty time-saver)
In a large soup pot, cook onions, garlic, celery, carrots, seasoning salt, lemon pepper, parsley, thyme, and fresh pepper in oil over medium-high heat until onions and celery are softened. Add more oil in small increments if necessary to keep food from sticking.
Add chicken broth/stock and scrape up any browned bits of food from bottom of the pot. Bring it to a boil. Add cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups. Stir well, breaking up clumps of cream soups. Return mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Add egg noodles, stirring to separate. Return soup to boil. Cook 20 minutes or until noodles are tender, stirring often to keep noodles from sticking together.
Stir in cooked, chopped chicken. Cook just until chicken is heated through.
NOTE: I’ve enjoyed making variations of this recipe, adding diced butternut squash as an alternative to the carrots and also adding corn and peas for fun! And I always add a good healthy tablespoon of Herbs de Provence (my favorite herb blend).
White Gazpacho takes a bit of time to prepare, but it’s a lovely accompaniment to a salad and some crusty bread (and perhaps a bit of bubbly). I shared the recipe to celebrate a girls’ weekend. Read all about it here.
Gazpacho has a sexy sister, and you need to meet her. I fell in love with Salmorejo in Spain, and I can’t wait for the weather to warm so I can fall in love with her again. Follow the directions exactly on this one – you won’t be disappointed. Here’s the story of my love affair.
Fun tip for Simple Soup Night
Always put some great garnishes out for your soup – these were for a triple-soup night of both red and white chili and the vegan corn chowder. There’s cheese, creme fraiche, guacamole, ketchup, and roasted corn – all things that spruce up a bowl by letting folks make the soup their own!
Sarah’s Oven Sandwiches
Oh yes, I didn’t forget about Sarah’s Oven Sandwiches (we’ve now served them in Guatemala and Honduras as well as in homes around the U.S., so they’re a rather big deal). The secret is in the schmear. Use it well and use it often. All you need for the sandwiches is some tasty bread (Kaiser rolls, potato rolls, French rolls, and homemade bread have all been tried with great success), turkey and ham (thinly sliced or shaved), Provolone cheese, and the Magic Schmear. Assemble, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 until melty and toasty. Smile.
1 cup mayo
1 T Dijon
2 t Italian seasoning
2 t onion powder
1 t salt
3 T Worcestershire
1/2 t garlic powder