Parsnips and Apples Soup, a Sweeter Fare for Meatless Fridays

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I love apples! Seriously. Love them almost more than chocolate. Biting into a warm, crisp, just picked apple in autumn is only one step away from doing the same in summer with tomatoes.

Living in Michigan, where apple production ranks number three in the States, the harvest of this fruit peaks in late September through early October. There are so many apples to choose from that I would have a great time every week at the farm markets buying mixed bags. I’ve long since given up storing a bushel of apples through the winter, buying instead a few specialty varieties each week.

Apples are wonderful to teach the youngest of children about our faith. When you cut an apple in half along the equatorial plane, the cross section in the core looks like a star; the five-pointed Epiphany Star. The five seeds inside the five-pointed star stand for the five wounds of Christ.

Children love stars, and while stars are not traditionally associated with the Lenten season, there is a weekly program for children, six and up, called The Seven Stars of Lent. This worship resource helps to prepare children’s’ hearts to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

A second apple story used to teach about the Trinity is cut an apple in half from top to bottom and note the three parts: skin, meat and seeds. The outer skin represents the Father who encompasses all, Jesus is the meat of the fruit that feeds us, and the seeds are the Holy Spirit that when planted, will bring new life. An apple wouldn’t be an apple if any one of these elements was missing; so, too, with the Trinity.

Now, since you’re cutting up all those apples for educational purposes, how about a recipe! This is a savory and sweet soup more for the adult pallet; try cutting the spices by half for kids.

Parsnip and Apple Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped sweet onion (Vidalia is best)

2 1/2 cups (about a pound) peeled and chopped Pink Lady apples (or any slightly tart apple is fine—Granny Smiths are too sour!)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dry

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) chopped peeled parsnip

1 clove garlic finely chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup apple cider (don’t use apple juice)

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sour cream dollops when serving

In a stock pot, sauté onions in oil until tender. Add apples, curry, ginger, and cardamom.  Simmer for about a minute to dissolve spices, stirring constantly. Add broth, parsnips, garlic, and cider. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until parsnips are tender. CAREFULLY blend soup until smooth using a blender (or use an immersion blender). Serve with sour cream.

A side note here, I like to use oven roasted parsnips. They tend to be sweeter and lend a fuller flavor to the soup. Of course, your stove-top cooking time will be reduced.

Photo morguefile.com, by marybaird.

Leaning into Light

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Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message. ~Psalms 19:2

It had been weeks since the last time it was warm enough to walk—a relative statement since it was only twenty degrees outside. I discovered my boots leaked while I walked along Leeward Drive. I stepped around slush puddles as best I could.

My cheeks and nose tingled from the cold. Today the sun had finally come out, and with all the snow it was blinding. The amount of snowfall since mid December set a record. Not only had there been a lot of snow, but nearly every day for the past month had been overcast. I wanted to feel the sun’s rays on my face, not filtered through glass.

Sunlight is important for us and the same is true for plants. Like houseplants, I too can become dull and stressed from an unusually dark winter.

There are specific terms for how plants respond to light. The one we are most familiar with is photosynthesis. This is how the plant absorbs sunlight, and through a series of metabolic processes, grows. Even when sufficient water and nutrients are present, without light plants die.

One houseplant that makes it obvious when light is low is the Maranta. It exhibits a photonastic response to light by folding its leaves together—and this is how it got its common name, Prayer Plant. This response to the lessening of light is also true of Oxalis (shamrocks), and the flowers of tulips and South African gazania. When light dims, they fold.

When a lot of houseplants are crowded around a window we see a directional movement—stems and leaves bend toward the sun. Growing towards the light is called phototropism.

There is another way plants move in response to light. Heliotropism is a plant’s ability to follow the sun across the sky. We see this occurring in the rotating heads of the sunflower. The sunflower’s botanical name is Helianthus, from Greek comes helios, for sun.

Of all the plant responses resulting from light, the one I was most fascinated with as a grower was photoperiodicity. It signals the plant what season it is and when to flower…and ultimately set fruit. Photoperiodism is the specific duration of light—long day/short night or long night/short day—needed for a plant to set bud. A familiar plant that needs long nights to color up is the poinsettia. The longer days of summer allows the carnation and bellflower to flower, as well as oats and clover. In both situations—long day or long night—light duration is essential.

The parables I find with light are as familiar to me as the Bible’s parables of seeds and soil. And evoke as many questions as to who am I as a Christian.

How do we grow in the Light of Christ? Do we fold up when God does not feel near? When we turn toward the Light, are we so focused on it that we become lopsided and turn our backs on our world? Can we, like the sunflower, be attentive to the Light and follow it throughout our day? Do we in our long nights wait for the Light? In our long days do we trust there will be rest?

We are illumined by the light of the Gospels. I pray that the Light of Christ is always felt and followed. That we continue to grow and bear spiritual fruits. And in our days we carry the Light, in our nights console those in darkness.

Image by Marge Steinhage Fenelon,  copyright 2018, all rights reserved. Permission granted, 2019.

Demons Love a Well Swept House

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During Lent I place in the oratory a small plaque with two words: Vacare Deo, to empty oneself for God. It’s a reminder for spiritual cleaning.

As it’s midwinter, and I’m already bored with being indoors, I am looking for things to do. This translates to “it’s time to clean up,” and I try to organize the attic recently assaulted with boxes of Christmas decorations. The basement could do with a bit of organizing too.

When cleaning things up, indoors or out, we often open up space.

As a gardener I love how the landscape looks — often after a marathon work-bee — when I’ve cleared a section that’d been overrun with weeds, crowded by perennials or tangled from unkempt hardwoods. I diligently pull, root out and trim back all the bedlam, opening the area to allow more sun and air for better growth.

When cleaning out an area — basement or flower bed — I’m often reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:43-45. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

It seems inevitable after I clean or organize the basement or attic, I find more stuff to fill the open area. Once again a few years later I’m in the same mess. Things not really worth saving have ended up on the shelves and scattered on the floor. Again I’ve not gained wisdom about myself, and again I’ve used poor judgment about what has worth.

In a garden, fallow ground is filled much more quickly — in a matter of weeks — than ground with established plants. Inexperienced gardeners are inclined to pull the weeds and thin out plants, exposing the ground. Leaving soil open makes it available for more things to grow. If we are not attentive and leave the freshly cleaned area unattended, seeds from God-knows-where take root, and there are more weeds sprouting than when we started.

I see this “clearing out” much like the verse in Matthew. Even though I work diligently at bringing the Lord into my heart by pulling up the weeds of sinfulness and removing the clutter of bad habits, if I do not fill that space with the Word of God and his Mercy, then there is nothing to prevent the disorder from returning.

Like most things that run off course, the intrusion of unneeded objects or undesirable plants begins so small. A few items back on the shelf, a few weed seeds falling on exposed earth. Then without me really noticing, things are seven times worse than when first begun.

The determination to remove the unwanted, without equal desire to take the next step, leaves us vulnerable and open to fall again.

Lord, save me from the pride that empties and fails to fill the void with your ways.

(First appeared at Aleteia.org, reposted with permission.)

 

Season of Lent, Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns

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Beloved Mother Mary, Mother of Sisters and Nuns, take to your heart your daughters who are close to you because of their higher calling and because of the power which they have received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs them so much.

In this holy season of Lent be their comfort, be their joy, and be their strength. Loving Mother help them to live and defend the ideals that your son suffered and died for so that we may have life eternal.

Amen.

The Increasing Kindly Light of Lent

Geraniums morguefilesA couple of decades ago, while employed at a large retail greenhouse, I met a lovely woman 12 years my senior, whose company made the hours pass quickly. We often worked together in the hoop-houses — plastic greenhouses framed with aluminum ribs — at the back of the retail area. Those production houses were the hottest of all 20, being low and lacking adequate ventilation.

Each spring we’d spend 50 or more hours a week, often in 90-degree heat, hauling potting mix, containers and 200 feet of heavy hoses. We potted hundreds of perennials, filled thousands of flats with seedlings and for a million times a day bent our backs as we moved plants from work bench to floor.

We were once strong. As I drove to the nursing home to visit her, I thought of the increasing light of Lent, and wondered of her Easter, and the resurrection. Read the rest of the story at Aleteia.

Image courtesy morguefile.com

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