Friday, May 29, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 7

I realized that I have been remiss in recording our exploration of the Edmonton epicurean scene when we made plans to return to Langano Skies tomorrow night, and I had had yet to report on our visit there several weeks ago.

Three weeks ago, my friends Sarah and Kevin organized an outing to try an Ethiopian restaurant down on Whyte Ave., Langano Skies. Now I LOVE Ethiopian food, having had some fantastic dining experiences in DC and NYC, and Ethiopian is fabulous if done well. But I have also had some really bland Ethiopian cuisine, so I realize it can be hit or miss. Langano Skies was a definite hit.

First, let me comment on the service... we were a large group: Sarah and Kevin (sans little Colin, since Grandma was babysitting), Rachel and Piyush, Natasha and Semyon and Anya, and John (sans Julie). But the staff at LS took it all in stride, even the rambunctious toddler Anya exploring the entirety of the restaurant. Perhaps the most exceptional aspect of our service was our waiter. When the first two people ordered, she asked them why they had chosen the particular dishes they had. When they answered, she recommended other dishes. "If you want the curry, I would go with this, and if you were desiring the ginger, then this is a better choice." She said that while all the food was good, the particular dishes they had ordered did not have the rave reviews from previous diners as the ones she had suggested. When it was John's turn to order, he said, "Bring me your best vegetarian dish." Others also followed suit. The recommendations of our server proved to be fantastic. Which brings me to...

The food. It was delicious. The Shiro Wot, her recommended dish, was superb. As was the Atakilt Aletcha Wot. What am I saying, it was all good. The injera was warm and spongy. And the blend of flavours from the various wots was delectable. I only tried the vegetarian dishes, but the omnivores in our group raved about the meat dishes as well. I think I have found a favourite restaurant in Edmonton.


A few days after Langano Skies, we went out to dinner with Julie (sans John, they had taken turns leaving town). We decided to try a new Indian restaurant that opened within walking distance of both of our homes. The Curry House, Indian Fusion opened in April to good reviews, and as Craig walks by there on his way to work, he has been eager to visit the new establishment. The restaurant is very cozy, only six tables or so, with elaborate decor of lush fabrics. We were the first customers there, arriving for dinner at 6pm, but the place soon filled more. Btu even with other customers, the owner/manager and wait staff were very attentive and offered good suggestions for food and drink. I was impressed that they serve a plain lassi, as most places only have the mango variety (or gasp, strawberry). I adore the plain, and this one was delicious. After our meal, I learned that they also have a savory lassi. Craig hates the savory ones, but I love them. So next time, I will be ordering that. Alas, I do not remember what we ordered (the problem with waiting so long to blog about a meal). But it was tasty. Not the best Indian ever (I have discriminating tastes, having enjoyed many, many delicious meals on Devon St. in Chicago), but yummy and satisfying and some of the better Indian I have had in Edmonton. I am concerned though, as the owner was saying they would soon be offering dishes with "low fat butter" and Splenda to "prove Indian food doesn't have to be unhealthy". If they change their menu to include these "healthy" options, we probably won't return. Even despite the promise of savory lassis. However, if they keep serving the quality of food we had this time, we will definitely walk that way again.

faux boeuf - my recipe for "beefy" seitan

Several folks have asked for the recipe for my vegetarian BBQ brisket. So, here is a recipe for fake beef (faux boeuf) seitan I adapted from several others I have. It makes a wonderful "beefy" seitan that looks surprisingly (and scarily) like actual beef and tastes yummy, though I can't say if it tastes like beef since it's been years since I have had beef. I have used the "beef" in a stir-fry, in fajitas, and my brisket, and all dishes were fantastic. Anyway, here 'tis...



  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup warm vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp. Marmite (Craig was horrified when I bought this!)
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
  • 2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (or other gravy browner)

Cooking broth:

  • vegetable broth (amount depends on cooking method. For baking, 4 cups. For simmering, 6-8 cups)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Marmite
  • 1 Tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke


  1. a. If using the simmering method, combine the broth ingredients and bring them to a low boil over med-high heat.
    b. If baking, preheat oven to 325.
  2. Saute onions and garlic in pan until onion is translucent.
  3. In bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
  5. Combine onion-garlic mixture, gluten mixture, and liquid mixture in food processor. Run/pulse for several minutes until ingredients are mixed well and it forms a ball. (If you do not have a food processor, you can mix by hand, in which case, be sure to chop the onions finely before sauteing them. A food processor make the process much, much easier, but it can be done without one, though, honestly, I personally don't have the time for that.)
  6. Divide gluten pieces into a dozen or so sections. Knead each section and stretch into a flat "cutlet". For a brisket, use one larger piece of gluten to fit inside your baking dish. Let gluten pieces stand on a flat service for five minutes.
  7. a. If simmering, reduce heat of broth to med. low. Put gluten pieces into broth and simmer for an hour. Do not boil.
    b. If baking, put gluten pieces in a casserole dish, cover with broth, and bake at 325 for an hour.
  8. Serve however you wish. Cut into slivers for stir-fry or fajitas. Slice thinly for a Philly cheese-fake sandwich. Barbecue entire "cutlets" or brisket. Seitan will keep for about a week or so in the refrigerator and can also be frozen.


Please leave a comment and let me know if you try this recipe.

making tortillas


This morning, I had flurries of white swirling around me as I walked into work. But the flurries weren't snow. They were flower blossoms.

It looks like Spring may actually be here. Finally.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


On Tuesday, I began working out with a personal fitness trainer at gym in the hospital where I work. Oh boy, am I ever feeling the "ow" now. She is going to kick my rear end and whip me into shape.

I have been to trainers before. But always at health clubs and never at a health care facility. This gal is good - her assessment unlike any I have ever experienced (she was able to ask me about old injuries before I told her, just from watching me move and seeing how my body compensated). And she is tough.

These next six weeks will be excruciating. But, let me tell you, I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I found out today that my friend Gilbert, who has been missing for over a month, is dead.

I did not know Gilbert long (though we were introduced in September, making him one of the first people I met in Edmonton). And I did not know him all that well, having only gotten together with him a handful of times. But Gilbert was one of those individuals for whom small talk was impossible, so the few gathering we had (two Sunday brunches in the weeks before he died) involved long discussion on morality and ethics, religion and atheism, art and culture, politics and justice, you get the idea. Gilbert went deep - immediately. And as a chaplain (one who spends all day everyday nudging folks, encouraging depth, and supporting openness), I appreciated this quality in Gilbert. Conversation with him was engaging and didn't require "work".

That Gilbert suffered with depression was something unknown to me until I read the article about his disappearance in the paper. How easy it was for me with training in this area not to pick up on the signs. And how well his warm laugh and welcoming personality masked his inner despair.

I did not know him long. And I did not know him well. But Gilbert was a man I had hoped and planned to get to know better. And I mourn both his death and the death of our friendship in its earliest blossoming stages.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Courts uphold Prop. 8

It's a tragic day for California, as today the state Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which bans same sex marriage. Sadly, the Court upheld the ban.

However, I am reminded of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's words, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

I trust that justice will eventually prevail in California, just as it has in Massachusettes, Iowa, Maine and Vermont (and will soon happen in New York and New Hampshire). I believe that Californians will work together to overturn Prop. 8, and I hope this will happen in just a few years.

Justice will prevail. It always does.

You say it's your birthday...It's my birthday, too!

Twenty-three years ago today, was my brother Ben's fifth birthday. As you may know, five is a pretty important milestone. You've had enough birthdays that you can remember, and you have been to enough parties of your friends, to know what to expect. And in our household, we did birthdays up right, with extended family coming for the celebration and a special meal of the birthday boy's choosing. Well, naturally, Ben was excited. And he told us so.

My older sister, Hilary, asked him why he was so excited. "It's my birthday," he exclaimed.

"No, it's not. It's Rachel's birthday. We switched your birthdays. Isn't that right, Rachel" (my birthday was the next birthday in our family, exactly one month after Ben's)

"Oh, yeah, that's right. We switched."

"But those presents are for me," Ben protested.

"No," Hilary replied, "they're for Rachel. Didn't Mom tell you?"

No. Mom hadn't told him. Ben protested a little, but not as much as we had expected. And when he took off. we figured he was going to ask Mom. And we braced ourselves for the wrath of Mom for teasing that sweet boy like that - on his birthday.

But Ben hadn't gone to ask Mom. He trusted us. And if the decision had been made that he and I had switched birthdays, then it must have been for a good reason. Ben felt bad. Partially because he had been so excited about his own birthday and now he wouldn't get to celebrate. But he also felt terrible because nobody had told him it was now my birthday, and he hadn't gotten me a present. He looked around his room and found a ceramic heart on a ribbon, given to the students in his Montessori class by their teacher. He wrapped up that necklace and made a card for me, wishing me a happy birthday.

Oh man, was Ben ever surprised when he found out it was, indeed, still his birthday. But confused, what was he to do with my present? Oh man, was I ever convicted with guilt and shame when Ben gave it to me anyway. What a kind, loving brother I had! (and oh man, was Mom ever pissed when she found out what we had done).

That ceramic heart remains with me to this day. I have always hung it from my vanity mirror, reminding me of my sweet brother and his love for me.

Ben and I continue to wish each other a happy birthday on our own birthdays, and sometimes we exchange small gifts. I have no doubt that at some point today, I will get an email, card, or phone call from Ben today, wishing me a happy birthday, despite the gifts and presents clearly marked for him on this his birthday.

But I already got the best present I could get when on May 26, 1981, Ben interrupted my softball game and made his entrance into this world as my baby brother.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I wish we didn't have a reason for Memorial Day to exist. But, alas, it does.

We must not forget:


Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003:

In Iraq
• 4,296 U.S. troops killed*
• 31,256 U.S. troops injured*
• 182 U.S. military suicides*
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed
• 100,361 to 1.2 million civilians
• $670.7 billion cost of war

In Afganistan
• 685 U.S. troops killed*
• 2,828 U.S. troops injured*
• $188.2 billion cost of war

* through May 18, 2009; source:; some figures only updated monthly
** sources:,
*** highest estimate; source:; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.1 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)

When will it end?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You can take the girl out of Texas...

It's Memorial Day weekend back in the States. Which means one thing...BBQ!!! And in Texas, BBQ means one thing...brisket!

What's a Texas gal to do when she's got a hankerin' for some BBQ beef brisket, but she lives far from the Lone Star State, and more importantly, she's a committed vegetarian?

Well, she improvises. And being an experimental cook, she comes up with a kick-a#! vegetarian BBQ brisket. Here are photos of tonight's dinner...

BBQ Brisket (seitan)

brisket, mac & cheese, coleslaw, and asparagus*

Let me know if you want the recipe...

*The asparagus isn't traditional BBQ fare, I know, but it's in season here and SO yummy!

Friday, May 22, 2009


I have a question. When it is appropriate to set two people up? I have this friend, Colin, who is handsome, sweet, and very smart (see for yourself*). And I would love to introduce him to my niece Eloise. Now, I know, Eloise is not even a day old, and she has a lot of adjusting to do: meeting Trooper (her dog), becoming a pooper, letting her parents get some sleep, etc. But I know she is a very swift learner, having already learned to breastfeed - not all babies do that easily. So, I am not talking about setting them up to meet like next week or anything hasty like that. But I just think they could hit it off, and I don't want an opportunity for them to meet to pass by. Now, I know, the fact that Colin is an older fella (having been around more than 100x longer than Eloise and with lots more experience) might worry Eloise's parents, especially Papa Chris. But Auntie Rachel will vouch for Colin, and I can say that he comes from a very good family (mom is a journalist, dad a physicist), and he is a very good boy. My original question: When is it appropriate to set two people up?

*note: the link contains not only photos but Colin's CV of skills and experience as well

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eloise Anne

My niece, Eloise Anne, was born this afternoon. Isn't she beautiful?

When my nephew Will was born, almost nine years ago, I remember being overwhelmed with how much love I felt for him. I didn't know it was possible to love someone I had never even met so much. I am again amazed at how my heart is bursting with love for this little girl.

Auntie Rachel

I will be an Aunt again today. My sister-in-love, Katie, is in labor. My brother Chris sent the text message this morning that my new niece or nephew is on the way. I am not too productive at work, as a keep checking my cell phone and email for more updates.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Twilight (halfway through)

I am halfway through the book, Twilight, and many times I have felt the urge to throw it across the room. At the halfway point, this book offends my feminist sensibility and romanticizes controlling behaviors that, in my line of work, I have been trained to see as red flags for abuse in relationships. This books makes me so angry. And I am horrified that so many young girls LOVE this book and see the vampire protagonist, Edward, as "dreamy", an ideal boyfriend. Ugh!! I am so tempted to toss it out all together.

The thing that keeps me from doing this is that is that the book belongs to my friends Juli and John. And it's not that I want to take care of things I have borrowed (which I do), but because I have such respect for Juli and John as intelligent, thoughtful, reflective, and feminist people. And they loved the book. And so many other people I know, love, and respect, absolutely LOVE this book, indeed the whole series. My college friend Becky, a feminist and a children's librarian, claims that this is one of the few series she has ever reread. What am I missing here? I am committing myself to finishing the book to answer that very question.

In the meantime, I am wrestling with the intense response this book has provoked in me. Part of my response is cerebral. But much, much more is emotional and personal. And while it is tempting to keep all of that at a distance, to strictly write a rational, feminist evaluation, if I am going to honestly critique this book, without having even finished it, then at least I need to acknowledge the emotional component of my response up front.

So, where to begin? Stephenie Meyer certainly does know her audience. She writes to teenage girls, in the voice of a teenage girl. And she skillfully and exquisitely captures the angst and insecurity, vulnerability and turmoil of adolescence and young love. Her female protagonist, Bella, doubts her abilities, lacks confidence, and sees herself as clumsy, dumpy, and ordinary. Just like I did. Didn't you? And Bella becomes infatuated with beautiful, brilliant, strong, and mysterious Edward, who happens to be a vampire. Talk about the ultimate bad boy. But Edward doesn't always play like the bad boy. He's becomes Bella's knight in shining armor, her savior. Again and again, he saves her life, proving that he is really a good guy, despite that pesky little thirst for human blood thing. And Edward doesn't want to be bad. He struggles with his own nature. He's a tortured soul, who longs for human contact and he turns to Bella, who is the only person who can truly know him and who can save him from himself. He sees beyond her perceived ordinariness to the exception wisdom, beauty, and mystery she possesses.

A perfect romance, eh? The beautiful, tortured boy saves the plain, ordinary girls from great evil (and mundane living), and she in turns saves him from his a loneliness and through her love, helps him to find himself. It's what every teenage girl dreams, right? I know I did. Bella becomes hopelessly weak and reckless in her infatuation. And she doesn't show the strength or backbone I would want her to show. She gets all ga-ga and stupid. But every girl does that. As my friend Jen states, "Weren't we all a little dysfunctional at seventeen?"

But this book, at least the first half, goes beyond the "normal" dysfunction of teenage girls in love. Edward's behavior is consistent with that of an abuser. He professes his desire to keep Bella safe, from danger in the world and from his own nature. On one hand he tells her that she is amazing and strong, and all the while he undermines her confidence. He claims that she is so special and unique that she needs to be protected. Never mind that Bella has done a fine job taking care of herself for seventeen years with absent parents. Suddenly, she is "delicate" and needs the protection only he can offer. And Edward casts everyone around her is a threat to her, even her friends and himself. And so he begins to manipulate her to mistrust her friends and to lie to those around her. Classic abuser behavior. He constantly does this come-closer-pull-away trick, to keep her uncertain of their relationship. Remember, she no longer has friends she can confide in the help her discern what is happening between her and Edward. He is extremely jealous of any attention given to her by other boys or any attention she may show to them, even as friends. Edward constantly tells Bella that he just cannot resist her, that she has such power over him. And he's a stalker. He follows her. He watches her sleeping. He eavesdrops on conversations.

And when Bella finds out, she thinks it's romantic. "Ah, he likes me."

And when teenage girls read this, they think it's romantic. "Ah, he likes her."

And when teenage boys treat teenage girls like this, they think it's romantic. "Ah, he likes me."

But it's not romantic. It's sketchy. It's creepy. It's controlling. It's manipulative. And it's abusive.

My friend Amy, a leader of the Women's Center on our seminary campus, has told me to "hang in there", that Bella develops a backbone and matures as the story progresses. I hope she's right. And I hope that when Stephenie Meyer smartens Bella up, that she will call out Edward's controlling, manipulative behaviors and name them unacceptable. Otherwise she does a great disservice to her readers by framing romance in the terms of these abusive behaviors.

I am continuing to read. And if I feel the need to throw the book while reading it, I will just conjure up any of the Edwards I have known (and loved) in my life and throw the book at them.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Perpetual Winter

I feel betrayed. These past weeks, Spring has been toying with me and my emotions. My heart beat faster at the sight of tiny buds on the trees. The warm breezes caressing my face elevated my mood. After months and months of icy chill, I finally began to let down my guard, to hope with abandon for the pleasure of Spring's warm embrace, to trust and believe in the truth of Spring's thaw. And then it snowed. Again. On the May long weekend.

Happy Victoria Day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Life Before Death

I face death each and every day. This morning, my day began with stroking the hair of a woman who was dying all alone, unresponsive to words but able to be soothed by human touch. Later, I gathered with a large, boisterous family as they laughed and told stories of their loved one, who left life amidst the merriment and celebration of his many years. I held the hand of a young bride as she gave the word to "go ahead" and withdraw the machine that were no longer supporting her new husband's life but prolonging his death.

You ask me how I can do my job, with death and dying confronting me all day long. You may assume it's a heavy burden. Grief is heavy. Pain and suffering, they can be tremendous burdens. But death, in and of itself, is not such a heavy load.

Death is very real. It's all around us. It's the only certainty we have in life - we will die. Denying this reality, I imagine that could be a laborious task. But I can't do that. Mortality is all to present for me, as I hold the hand of a dying patient as she takes her last breath,or embrace a grieving loved one in my arms.

As I watch people die, I realize that, in many cases, we die as we have lived. If we live life in fear, we die fearful. If we live life in anger, we die angry. If we live life in meaningful relationships and connected to loved ones, we end life loved.

You ask if I believe in life after death. I know for many people, the hope of an afterlife, the idea that somehow, in someway, they continue (or that they will be reunited with loved ones) gives them comfort and peace. I also see that for others, the threat of eternal damnation means they spend their lives afraid.

You ask if I believe in life after death. I am avoiding your questions, I know. [we chaplains are trained to deflect]

You ask if I believe in life after death. Well, no. But I don't necessarily disbelieve it. I just don't think it really matters for me.

You ask if I hope that there is more than this life. Well, no. This life, lived well, is all I could ask for. And it is my desire and my calling and my hope to live the best life I can: to be in healthy relationships, to care for others, to work for peace, to create beauty, to make love, to learn, to grow, to laugh, to live...

You ask what I do believe in. And that's easy. I believe in life. Maybe not life after death. But certainly life before death. What about you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the US. In honor of this day (which I feel pushes the boundaries of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution), Unreasonable Faith published this quote by a "Founding Father".
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
—Benjamin Franklin


More on Torture

CNN reports that the more religious a person is, the more likely s/he supports torture:

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

As one who opposes the use of torture, I find this disturbing. Why are the religious faithful more willing to suport torture than the "godless, immoral heathens"? What does this say about religious faith? Is anyone else troubled by this?


I began working in hospital ministry in 2000. At that time, like now, we had to wash our hands before and after every patient visit to prohibit the spread of germs from patient to patient. The difference between then and now was that in 2000, we had to walk to a physical sink on the unit, stop, plunge our hands under a stream of hot water, and scrub. Now, we push a lever on one of the ubiquitous hand sanitizer pumps and get handful of cleansing foam which we rub into our hands as we move to the next patient.

While I appreciate the efficiency of the hand sanitizer pumps, I miss the old way of going to the sink. I know, I know, I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, "Back in my day...". But the pumps take something away. I felt this something missing when I first returned to hospital ministry in 2007. But it took me almost a year to figure out that what I was lacking was the ritualistic element of stopping after each patient, cleansing my hands, and then returning to my work without carrying anything from the previous visit into the next. And it's more than just germs I am talking about. Standing at the sink and scrubbing my hands gave me a chance to breathe deeply, to pause and reflect on my previous visit, and to release the emotional weight of that visit before I went into another room and another visit.

The sanitizing foam kills the germs on my hands, but it doesn't actually remove anything from me. Instead it just builds up. After several visit, I notice that my hands have become sticky; the foam, coating all of those dead germs, is still there, getting thicker and thicker and making my hands feel yucky.

My heart feels much the same way when I don't pause and release the emotional weight of each visit before moving onto the next. I understand how burnout happens. And I understand how the visits themselves build up and get all sticky and yucky if I don't take a moment for cleansing and renewal.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tortilla Soup

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday that commemorates the Mexican victory over the French army in 1862. In my native Texas, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican heritage, culture and pride. And we celebrate in style: mariachi music, ballet folklorico, and food, food, food. Growing up, Cinco de Mayo was a favorite holiday. Imagine my surprise when I learned from my native Mexican friends that it's not really a big deal in Mexico. In Pueblo, my friend Abelardo's hometown, they celebrate it. But for the rest of Mexico, it's a minor holiday. But I still like to celebrate it.

So how does a Texan celebrate a minor Mexican holiday in Canada? Going out is not really an option since Mexican food is tough to find here (and vegetarian Mexican is nearly impossible). So I made it myself. I didn't have the energy for making mom's amazingly delicious green enchiladas, so I opted for my "famous" tortilla soup. The recipe is surprisingly easy. And the results are so yummy. We have even served this for company. Without them knowing how easy it was.

Tortilla Soup


  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped (I like bite-sized pieces)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • ¼ t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ q. vegetable broth
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 t salt
  • cilantro leaves (1/4 cup fresh or 3 T dried)
  • one corn tortilla cut into thin strips (this will get all mushy in the soup and help give it it's yummy flavor)
  • 1 14 oz. can beans (red kidney is what I used
  • 1 14 oz. can whole kernel corn
  • 1 c. shredded seitan or other fake meat (optional)
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic. Cook for approximately five minutes, until onions are nearly translucent.
  3. Add spices. Cook onions and spices for another few minutes stirring often.
  4. Add broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cilantro, and tortilla strips. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add beans, corn, and seitan (if using). Return to a simmer. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Serve with crispy tortilla strips*, grated cheese (optional), and fresh cilantro.
* to make my low(er) fat crispy strips, cut corn tortilla in thin strips, mist with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then bake at 200ยบ F until crispy.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you try this recipe.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I walked home today without a jacket. Is spring arriving in Edmonton? I am beginning to see hints of green...

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Natasha, Semyon, and their daughter Anna arrived in Edmonton this weekend. They are friends of our from Chicago who have come here for Natasha to join the Physics Department (and to share an office with Craig!). Yes, it's a small world.

As we were helping them put together their furniture from IKEA, I couldn't help but to think that we just weren't building chairs, dressers, and a dining room table, but we were building community. We have wonderful friends here, both new friends we have made in the past year, and now old friends who have joined us. What a gift that is.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Religious, But Not Spiritual

For a while, I tried to think of myself as "spiritual but not religious". I think what I was trying to say was that I had a sense of wonder and awe, but I felt that religious institutions could be destructive and harmful.

But recently, I have started to think of myself as "religious, but not spiritual". In this, I am saying that I think being in community with people who share my values is important. And I think ritual is meaningful and significant in my life. But I don't hold belief in any specific deity any longer. Oh, I have a sense of wonder. I have a profound sense of the sacred. And I believe there are higher powers than myself (love, justice, to name two) at work in the world. But god? I don't disbelieve. But I have enough doubt to keep questioning. (I used to say that my faith was in my questions. I don't know what that means anymore.)

Having said that, I do feel that religious belief, specifically belief in God, CAN give people much meaning, strength, and hope. I see it every day in my job as a chaplain. And it can be a great motivating force to work for justice and peace in the world. I also know that participating in ritual, even if I don't believe that ritual creates an ontological change in the world or myself, can help to connect me to something bigger than myself, namely community.

I still think that religious institutions can extremely damaging and hurtful, both to individuals (I count myself among the wounded) and to communities and societies. And religious belief can give people and peoples justification for perpetuating injustice and oppression. But I also know it can be a positive and healing force in our world. And while I may not personally have a spiritual connection with any deity, I do feel as if my religious connections provide me with strength, support, nourishment, and hope.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 6

Last Friday, I had a stressful meeting, so my Beloved took me out for a romantic dinner to lift my spirits. :) We decided to try out Murrieta's West Coast Grill on Whyte Ave. The place is named for the legendary bandit/hero (depending on one's point of view), Joaquin Murrieta, which led to a stimulating conversation/debate (depending on one's point of view) about how our culture glorifies outlaws, scoundrels, and the like. One thing Craig and I did agree on was that the dark wood paneling, vaulted ceilings, posh decor, extensive wine list, live jazz piano, and eclectic menu were not consistent with the bandito/revolutionary image of Murrieta. They did, however, create a delightful epicurean experience for us.

We started with the the baked brie appetizer, moved on to the grilled vegetable flat bread, followed by the jumbo ravioli, and finished up with the bread pudding. Everything we had was delicious (though the bread pudding is not the very best in Edmonton - see below), and the service was impeccable. Murrieta's is an ideal place for a romantic dinner or night out with a visiting scholar. I expect we'll return.

Earlier this week, we returned to a favorite place of ours, Da-De-O, with our friends John and Juli, who had never visited the cajun diner before. Tuesday is Po-Boy night, which made it a good excuse to try their po-boys. Usually, we just stick to the vegetarian jambalaya or the BBQ beans and rice. Craig, Juli, and I all decided to break from our vegetarianism and opted for seafood while John held fast to his veggie principles. My calamari po-boy was overflowing with crispy, spicy perfection. I got the potato hash as the side instead of the famous sweet potato fries. But I swiped some of the fries from Craig's plate. I also sampled his blackened catfish - not bad. We finished the night sharing key lime pie and bread pudding. The pie was not so great, especially after last week's excursion to Vi's, but the bread pudding was phenomenal. It could very well be the best we've had in Edmonton, though I think a taste test between Da-De-O and Highlevel Diner might just be in order.