HOT Tomatillo Salsa

My latest recipe was put together over the weekend because I was given a bunch of green tomatillos from a friend’s summer garden.  Tomatillos are sort of like tomatoes, but covered with a husk.  They are great for cooking.  



About 10 tomatillos

Peppers – For this recipe I used one large bell pepper, about six habañero, 5 serrano and 8 jalepeño (use any variety you want)

One large white onion

Salt (to taste)


One large tomato

6 cloves of garlic

Process:  Take the tomatillos and de-husk and wash.  Tomatillos are sometimes sticky on the skin, that’s normal.  Wash and then cut the tops off the peppers but do not deseed.  Place the tomatillos and peppers on a baking sheet and place on the top rack of the oven, right under the broiler.  


Heat up under the broiler until blackened, taking the baking sheet out and turning the peppers and tomatillos over to get all sides completely blackened.


While this is going on in the oven (keep an eye, its a rather fast process) – cut the tomato up into quarters and put in a blender and puree.  Put the tomato puree into a mixing bowl.  Repeat process with the onion and garlic cloves.  

Remove the blackened tomatillos and peppers from the baking tray and place in blender.  Puree down as with the tomato, onion and garlic.  Transfer into mixing bowl.  Stir all the ingredients together in the mixing bowl and add in as much salt and cilantro as you’d like.  There will be some water, etc. that will come out of the tomatillos and peppers as you grill them, put that into the mix too, it’s good!  Don’t lose that from the baking sheet!

Now you have HOT salsa!



CSA Dinner

Tonight we made dinner from our ongoing sampling of veggies etc. that comes in our CSA bag each week.   These recipes use the zucchini, scallions, portobello mushrooms and onions from this week.  


Zucchini Fritters



2 eggs

2/3 cups of flour

Bunch of scallions (about 7)


Take your zucchini and after washing it grate it (with the skin on).  Mix the grated zucchini with a little bit of salt and let it stand for 10 minutes.  After the water has drained from the zucchini roll it in paper towels to get a lot of the water out.  Put the zucchini in a bowl.  Add the two eggs, the cut up scallions (all the way to the green ends!) and flour together in a bowl and mix together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  


Heat a little bit of oil in a saucepan and then drop some of the zucchini into the saucepan and lightly pan-fry.  Place on paper towels to drain.





2/3 yogurt to 1/3 mayo 

Italian and Dill seasonings

Whisk everything together and place in a bowl


Steak with Portobello Mushrooms


5 steaks

4 Portobello Mushrooms

2 small onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 can of capers

Red Wine (any kind you have around)

Red Wine Vinegar


In a large saucepan put a little bit of butter in the pan and place the onions and garlic cut up with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and some salt.  Sauté.  Then place the cut up mushrooms into the pan and continue to stir.  Add in some of the wine and red wine vinegar (about a cup of wine and about 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, but to be honest, I do not measure).  After everything comes to a boil, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and add in the capers and then the steaks.  Stir everything together and cover the dish to simmer for about 50 minutes for the steak to get very tender and the juice incorporated.  Stir occasionally.   

Zucchini Flowers for Dinner (and one guest)

IMG_5691-Zuchini-flower-Squash-blossom-750 Did I mention that I love our CSA?  They are so thoughtful!  We get delivery of our veggies and NY cheese on Wednesdays and just before my pickup time we got this note and warning:   Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 5.53.45 PM I love it!  Bees – happy bees!   So of course I opened my package of zucchini blossoms on the porch because well, I didn’t want one in the house.  Unfortunately, I did have a bee, but he/she didn’t make it.  More on that in a moment.   A new adventure!  I have never cooked zucchini blossoms!   In preparation I spent about an hour last night watching videos online and deciding my plan of attack to this new adventure in cooking which is one of the main reasons Juan and I decided to get a year-round CSA, it forces us every week to come up with new recipes and try out things we haven’t had before, which is about 80% of the joy for me, figuring out how to cook new things and expand my skill set.  There are many preparations for the beautiful zucchini flowers, but the consensus online among professional chefs seemed to be that cheese is the best filling.  And I have cheese!  Lots of NY cheese!  From my CSA!    First the ingredients (this was my set up before I started cooking):   IMG_1373   Ingredients: Vermont Quark that also had local honey and black pepper in it (the honey gave a great slight sweet taste to this!) Moonlight cheese A little bit of milk (or you can use half and half or full on heavy cream)  I decided to use milk so that I can say I made a “healthy” choice…..    Baby green onions More fresh cracked pepper (I put this in everything) Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, best when the cheese is room temperature.  You can use any cheese you want or like, but they need to be soft cheese for mixing.   And if you want to put something else in this (I know some of you might want to put, say, bacon in!) I guess you could do that.  All of my cheese also came from my awesome CSA and it’s all local.   IMG_1376   Next you need to CAREFULLY get the stamens out of the zucchini flowers if that hasn’t already been done.  This is the hard part. It took a lot of effort and patience so I didn’t tear the flowers.    And that’s when I found my bee who didn’t make it.  S/he died in the flower, after s/he had overdosed on zucchini pollen.   S/he died happy.  RIP.     IMG_1374   Next you load up the cheese into the zucchini flowers and close them up.  One of the shows I watched last night suggested using a tiny spoon to do this because even a teaspoon won’t fit.  Luckily, Juan and I kept the baby spoons from 12 years ago and so I used one of those (Parents: if you have a baby right now and wonder, “What will I do with these adorable little baby spoons?” you should keep them!  Don’t throw them out!  They will be very useful for gourmet cooking later!).     You also are supposed to put a small amount of cheese into each flower so it’ll cook better (I may or may not have made that rookie mistake…..) IMG_1378 Next you tuck some of the flower petals in and around the cheese.  I did the best I could.  This was the first time I was doing this after all!  Here are my zucchini flowers all organized with their cheese in them.  See the big one?  That’s the one where I went too far with the cheese!  IMG_1379   Now, there are a ton of ideas about how to cook them.   Some cooking shows have a way of deep frying them, others say pan fry.  There are baking recipes, and other ideas out there. I decided to go with pan fry.   Let me just say it didn’t turn out as it did on TV (as in perfect).  I learned a lot this first time, and think if I did it again I would be nearly perfect.   The reason it wasn’t perfect was because I didn’t listen to the advice about overdoing in on the cheese.   

Finished Product!

IMG_1387     IMG_1388

A happy husband!  

IMG_1393 (opening photo credit, Food and Wine Network)

Fiddleheads | What’s That?!?


So, I’ve been posting some pictures on Facebook of our latest round of veggies, etc. from our CSA bag this past week.  We got foraged fiddleheads and when I posted the photos many people were asking what they were, etc.  

Here’s a great explanation of fiddleheads from Forager’s Harvest.

Tonight I made them for dinner following this video from Martha Stewart.

Only difference from Martha is that I added freshly diced garlic as well.  Yum.  Above is a photo of my finished product.

Bonus Recipe–Colombian Chicken dish inspired by my mother-in-law

Dice up four cloves of garlic and a half a purple onion.

Throw them in a pot with some a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper (I grind my own).

Sauté until golden brown.

Then put a whole little jar (plus the water it comes in) of capers, a fresh tomato cut up into chunks and some white wine in.  

Continue to sauté.

When it’s hot, turn heat down to low and put a package of chicken in.  You can put in drumsticks, thighs, wings, breasts, whichever you want.  

Stir it all up and put the lid on the pot.  

Cook on low for about 45-60 minutes so everything gets really tender and all the flavors are incorporated into the chicken.


Finished product:  a happy husband!


Some CSA Recipes (Slaw, Salad and Pie)

Juan and I have started getting our veggies and fruit (and CHEESE!!!) each week from a CSA. If you don’t know what a CSA is, it’s Community Supported Agriculture. We’ve subscribed to a local one here in Albany that brings food from many different family farms around the upstate New York region.  We decided to join the CSA so that we can try new things each week and experiment with cooking things we haven’t normally cooked and get some fun new things too.  So far so good….

Some things I’ve made thus far, and these recipes are done by me going around the internet, poking around and then putting things together in a way that made sense to me, I sort of mushed a few recipes together. The pie recipe is the one I always make and again its one I drew on a few others for….hope you enjoy making these as much as we have.  


 Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw

This was my finished product.

This was my finished product.


Ok, I had no idea what to do with the kohlrabi. But I figured it out.


One whole kohlrabi, peeled and diced into matchsticks

Two apples (we had Pink Lady apples this week in the CSA bag) also peeled and diced into matchsticks

Dried cranberries—sprinkle as many or as few in as you want


Dice all the above up, throw it in a bowl raw and mix it up.



50/50 olive oil and lemon juice

Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk it all together


Then dress the slaw up, as light or as heavy as you want. Eat!

Oh and the kohlrabi came with the leaves, etc.  I googled that and you can save the leaves and make an salad with those too.  I’m going to try that next so as not to waste.  Here’s the recipe I plan to try.  I’ll post how that goes…  


Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

My finished product.

My finished product.


Beets (we had six beets of various sizes in the CSA bag, so I used all of them)

1/3 of a large log of goat cheese

Olive Oil

Red Wine Vinegar





  1. Take the beets, and put them in a pot and cover with water.  Scrub them off if they still have dirt on them as ours did from the farm.  Put some salt in the water and boil the beets for 20-30 min until they are tender. Boil them with the skin on. When done boiling run under cold water and peel by hand or with a peeler. Then cut up the beets however you want, sliced, diced, cubed—whatever strikes your fancy. Throw them in a bowl.
  1. Make the dressing: Put two tablespoons of red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Then slowly stream in 1/3 cup of olive oil, whisking it together to make an emulsion. Then I ground in salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Stir together the dressing and the beets in a bowl. Then I let it stand for two hours to marinate.
  1. Cut up the goat cheese, I used 1/3 of a big log, but you can use more, there is no judgment…. Then I cut up the pecans. I don’t know how many I used, I just eyeballed that. I threw the goat cheese and the pecans into the bowl and mixed it all together.

That’s it!


Apple-Cranberry Pie

Pie on the plate.  Flaky so it broke up some.  The pie has only been out of the oven a half hour and half is gone because Juan is obsessed with pie.

Pie on the plate. Flaky so it broke up some. The pie has only been out of the oven a half hour and half is gone because Juan is obsessed with pie.


5-6 large apples, peeled and sliced

Dried cranberries (as much or as little as you want)


Pie Crust (for the top and the bottom)


Sometimes I make my own pie crust. Other times I buy it. If you buy it just roll out the pie crusts.  The photo above is with crust I bought, I was too tired to go through making crust, but I’ll do that for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When I make crust from scratch I use the Cuisinart Pie Crust Recipe which is high on butter. It’s really good and a deadly treat. When I use that pie crust, I brush the top with a little bit of milk and lightly sprinkle some sugar on it. It’s like a sugar cookie on top when it comes out of the oven.  That’s what Cuisinart says to to, so I blame the bad health choice of that pie crust on them.  

I throw the diced up apples and cranberries in a bowl and mix them together. I drizzle agave over it and mix it in. Agave is like honey with a low glycemic load and super sweet.  It’s not perfect, some people say it’s bad too.  Oh well, it’s pie!  I have no idea how much I put in, maybe two to three tablespoons (?). I don’t measure, I just eyeball it.

Roll out one crust into the pie plate. Fill with the apple-cranberry-agave sweetness. Put the pie cover on and seal with fingers and a fork. Cut some air holes in the top.  

I have learned that you put a pie plate on a cookie sheet in the oven. Sometimes the apples bubble over and then your oven is a disaster. The cookie sheet is insurance against this.

Bake in the oven at 350° Fahrenheit for about an hour. I check it at 30-45-60 minutes. Remove when the apples are bubbling and hot piping. You can also put foil around the edges of the pie crust for the first ¾ of cooking so they don’t burn and then pull off the foil at the end. I only need to do this when I make my own crust.

Let it sit for about 45 minutes before cutting into it to eat the pie. This is the hardest part.


We are having fun with our CSA adventures. You have no idea what’ll come in the bag each week and then you just have to cook!  


A Poem for Sunday


On this day,

     we gather.

Wandering into the pews,

     wondering what the next hour might bring.

Some of it familiar,

     some will be new.

Bringing God alongside with us, we beckon the Spirit.

Remembering saints of the beloved past

     our hearts stir, our spirits cry out.


Concerns, worries, joys, delights

     all sit in these pews with us.

Common friends, old friends, new friends, strangers, enemies.

Mixed together.

Just like last Sunday.

     just like next Sunday.

Over and over and over again.

The rhythm of worship.


All muddled together.

Yet we are here.

Some broken and bruised.

Others shouting our alleluias.

God is here in this place.

Jesus is challenging us once again.

            Are you living the prophets life?

The Spirit is breathing new life.

            Do you hear her whispers?


Once again.

Seamless Faith


I’m delighted to be a stop on the Blog Tour for my friend Traci Smith’s new book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family LifeHer book is a resource for parents who want to find practical ways to incorporate traditions, ceremonies and spiritual practices in to their daily routines and lives. Because Traci and I both work together to support the work the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, I’ve asked her to talk specifically about how this book might help families who are interested in interfaith dialog and peacemaking and I’m so excited about her new book!  (Traci and I are also both married to Colombians, so we know that part of life very well too!)  Enjoy a little bit of our conversation, maybe this can be a tool for your community of faith as you seek to lead all people to experience the Spirit’s presence that is always all around them! 

Shannan: How can families stay faithful to their own faith traditions while still respecting and honoring the traditions of other religions? 

This is such an important question, and can be tricky to navigate. While we want our children to have strong convictions and confidence about what they believe, we don’t want them to cross the line into becoming judgmental and intolerant of others. Furthermore, in a world where religious extremism leads to violence and narrow-minded beliefs can stifle dialog, many parents are understandably wary of “indoctrinating” their children. Here are some principles that I have found are useful to parents: 

  • Use the language analogy:  I once heard someone talk about the “language of faith” in the same way that we think about languages that we speak and write. He said “just as I can speak many languages, I can speak other languages of faith, but there is one language that is my heart and my mind.” We can tell children that just as people speak different languages, there are many different faith languages and that it’s fun and interesting to learn about them.
  • Incorporate other traditions in your own way: Seamless Faith is based on my reformed Christian Perspective, yet there are several practices that borrow from other religions: prayer flags based on the Tibetan prayer flags, the Sacred Meal modeled after the Jewish Sabbath Meal tradition and the Buddhist parable of the raft are some examples of this.
  • Talk about what is common to many faiths and help children to find common ground: Tell children that, though there are many different beliefs around the world, there are some common themes that appear in most of the worlds’ religions: love and peace, hope and truth. Ask children how other beliefs can help them to understand their own with greater depth.

Shannan: How can people who are interested in your book learn more?   

I send out a monthly newsletter with free excerpts from the book and monthly tips about faith and family.Readers can sign up to receive these updates. The book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life is now available from Chalice Press and your favorite book-selling place. Thank you so much for loaning me a some space on your blog to talk about an issue that is near and dear to both of us! 

Evangelism at the Museum

Gaultier corsets

Gaultier corsets

Last night Juan, Sofia and I drove over to neighboring Brooklyn (other side of the bay) to the Brooklyn Museum that stays open late on the first Saturday of each month.  We wanted to see the Jean-Paul Gaultier show, being big fans of his design work—and thought it would be a fun night out on a chilly evening.

After seeing the Gaultier show, which was by the way, amazing—we stopped in at the café for a late-night snack.

Two beautiful women sat down next to us in the café.  We struck up a conversation only to learn that one of the women is a member of an alternative religious order, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  We talked about our responses to what was presented in the Gaultier show—design, the body and creative blurring of gender lines.  They

With one of the Sisters.

With one of the Sisters

asked us to take some photos of them; we obliged and Juan ended up posing playfully for some photos together.  The one Sister spent a few moments on each of us—complementing, finding a way to get to know who we were in a very quick and effective way.  She made us smile, the conversation was all about us—and at the end she told us what she did, what the Order was, invited us to Google it to learn more and departed with a blessing and a hug for all.  She told us to enjoy life and each other.  I never got a chance to disclose what I do, and it wasn’t until they evaporated into the night and I ran a quick Google search did I know what I had just experienced.

From their website the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence say

…we are a leading-edge order of queer nuns… Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.

“Let mutual love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  (Hebrews 13)

Pink Gaultier Corset

Pink Gaultier Corset

What if we as the “mainline” or “traditional” church “evangelized” like this? 

  • Struck up conversations with total strangers, making them feel in seconds that they are blessed, loved and the center of the universe? 
  • Openly discussed beauty, especially that which does not follow the “conventional lines” but helps us see more?
  • Stayed out late on Saturday nights (which most “church” people don’t do because you have to get up early on Sunday morning) to find people to bless?
  • Left our communities of “home” to engage others (this Sister travelled from France to Nashville to NYC).
  • Expert practitioners at short, immediate, meaningful connections with strangers that noticed something to celebrate, saw each person as beloved, and offered care with no strings attached?
  • Invited strangers into a conversation that leaves them hungering for something more? 
  • Tell people about our faith communities but the telling is 100% for their blessing not ours
  • Leave a memory (in this case, photos on iPhones).
  • Have no building, no place, only clusters of community that are committed to acts of justice, mercy and love?
  • Have “mission statements” that invite us to go out and find those who need to be unchained?  That person who needed unchaining last night, I believe was me…and that Sister noticed it—and went at me like a laser—and in five minutes opened me up.  I am so grateful…
  • Use mundane moments to tell others about our ministry and offer love, grace, play and care?  (isn’t that the definition of evangelism)?

For the last nearly 13 years as a local church Pastor my weekends were so orchestrated and centered around the life of a local church community.  One of the deficits of that life is that I didn’t get out into the world as much as I wanted to, and so am not as open to these sorts of experiences that have a spiritual nature to them.  I think this happens to our longtime members as well.   We can get focused in and not out—and it’s about us and our community, about us and our survival—so it is very hard and very challenging to be like these Sisters and to be unattached to “outcomes.”

It’s not a judgement, it’s just the way it is or has become for so many of our communities in the “mainline/traditional” these days…and I wonder to myself this morning, after reading the Sister’s mission statement and experiencing it as they ministered to me last night, how are we participating in chaining the human and Divine Spirit and how can we go in a new direction?

Image 9

Gaultier tartans

We have to re-adjust ourselves to be open, to see and to grow.

Last night offered me much to think and reflect on—these Sisters and their brief, unexpected ministering is one expression of what a life centered around Jesus-like behavior might look like.

What a holy experience meeting those Sisters. 

What a blessed re-learning about faith and evangelism. 

What a teaching it can offer our communities of faith today, one that I will take with me…

Christmas Prayer/Poem for 2013

Star being born

Star being born

O Come O Come Emmanuel

On this most Holy Night

Night of the birth of the Savior Christ


O Come O Come Emmanuel

Open our hearts

            To those who we love

            To those who we struggle to love

            To the immigrant, the wanderer, the stranger, the refugee

            Remind us that Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child once

                        Were immigrants, wandered as refugees

                                    And were ignored as strangers

            Open our hearts

            The prisoner, the criminal

            To those who cause us joy  

                        And those who cause us harm

            To our neighbors

                        Especially those we do not know

            To those who have no place to go this night

                        Those who are sick

                        Those who are made to work and so cannot worship or rest

                        Those who homeless

                        Those who have found no place at any inn


O Come O Come Emmanuel

Open our souls

            Make space for those who are grieving

            Open a room for those who are lost

            Re-open us to your Spirit of transformation and renewal

            Give us courage to follow only You

            Help us to see where you are calling us

                        To see the needs here in this community and around this world         

                        And to have the courage to respond with all we have

                                    As those who follow the Christ Child

Open our souls

            On this night we want to let go of our fears, our worries, our doubts

            We want to follow only You


O Come O Come Emmanuel

Renew our lives

            Where we sense our purpose and calling—strengthen us

            Where we are lost and directionless—restore us

            Where we fall short of your mercy, love and grace—

                        Grow our souls

            Where we are unsure or stuck—change us


O Come O Come Emmanuel

            That Baby in the manger

            Full of trouble for some

            Full of salvation for others


O Come O Come Emmanuel

            Parents who protect


            And push forward, trusting only you


O Come O Come Emmanuel

            Spaces that open up for welcome and a birth

            Shepherds who notice the Divine mystery as it unfolds

            Stars that shine

            Animals that gather

            And strangers from the East who will appear


O Come O Come Emmanuel

            Give us faith once again in this mysterious story

            In which we all are saved, made free and made new


O Come O Come Emmanuel

            In this New Year might we follow You

            God with us

            Emmanuel.  Amen.    

May 5 – July 21, 2013

I’ll be leading a sermon series on the journey towards transformation for eleven weeks as described in my letter to the congregation.   Here are the readings I’ll be utilizing each week.  The idea is to work through issues of the new things the Spirit is leading us towards in Church today.   I’ll be curious to see the feedback here and at Watchung Avenue as well.  Peace…


Week One:

Genesis 18: 1-15 & Genesis 21: 1-7

Laughing with God

Week Two:

Exodus 2: 1-10 & Exodus 3: 1-12

Babies, Baskets and Bushes

Week Three:

Exodus 14 & Exodus 20

Changing the Contract

Week Four:

The Things that Trap Us

Deuteronomy 6: 1-9 & Deuteronomy 34

Week Five:

Acts 2 

The Power that Traps Us

Week Six:

Acts 4: 32 – 5: 11

The Stuff that Traps Us

Week Seven:

Acts 7: 54- 8:1 & Acts 11: 1-18

Last Days in Town

Week 8: 

Acts 11: 19-30

The New and Different Place

Week 9:

Proverbs 3: 1-12 & Mark 5: 1-20

Taming the Demons

Week 10:

Psalm 139 & Mark 6: 1-13

Called by God into Something New

Week 11:

Isaiah 43 & Mark 6: 45-52

The New Thing