Hospitality

We drove back from Houston today following our friends’ wedding yesterday. It was a slow start to the day so we did not end up having much time when we got back to Austin. We went to church and then over to my friend Eric’s place for a Christmas party.

It was for my Men’s Development group and we had a great time. Eric made a fantastic roast and all sorts of other goodies. We sat around for several hours, talking, laughing and just sharing time together. Lindsey and I had a wonderful time.

There were many great aspects to our evening. We love the people we hung out with. There were some great conversations. The food was really, really good. But at the end of the night I was struck by one thing: hospitality. Eric was a fantastic host, and it was appreciated by everyone in attendance. From the meal, to the setup, to the deserts he did provided a great evening for all of us.

It made me think about Lindsey and me and our the goal we had to have a very hospitable and open home. We did really well with it until the school year and our Development Programs kicked off and our free time shrank. We’ve been pretty poor at it since then.

We talked about this on the drive home and agreed that we needed to change that. It was late so no plans were set, but we’re on the same page. We highly value being hospitable and opening up our home, we’ve just been falling short lately. We’ll have to see what we can do about that in the coming months.

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An unexpected delight

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Vegetarian lasagna.

What do you think when you read that? If you are like me, you’re thoughts are not good.

Yet, that is what Lindsey made tonight and it was awesome. No, really. I’m not saying that as some sort of newlywed, I have to be careful not to hurt her feelings placation. I really mean it.

Lindsey did an excellent job tonight cooking for us and our friend Laura. It was so good I want to share the recipe with you. Lindsey found this over at crumbblog.com, and you should definitely try it.

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

If you can’t find La Bomba sauce, substitute with sundried tomato pesto or regular basil pesto.
Ingredients

Roasted Vegetables

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 medium-sized Asian eggplant
  • 4 medium-sized portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Marinara Sauce

  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (796 ml each) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (156 ml) tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

Spinach-Ricotta Filling

  • 1 container (450g) ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 package (255g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Lasagna Layers

  • 16 lasagna noodles, cooked as per package directions
  • 1 cup La Bomba sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables for roast. Cut the red peppers into quarters, removing the seeds and stem. Slice the zucchini and eggplant into 1/2″ thick slices. Remove the thick stems from the portobellos.
  3. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet (use two sheets if necessary). Brush with oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and shredded basil. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then flip over and roast for 10-15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are browned on the edges and soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the sauce. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, or until soft and lightly coloured. Add tomato puree, tomato paste and wine, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to blend.
  5. Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 350F, and roughly chop the cooled vegetables into bite-sized chunks. Transfer the chopped vegetables to a bowl, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the baking sheet.
  6. Lastly, prepare the ricotta-spinach layer by whisking together the ricotta, parmesan, basil, eggs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Squeeze out all the excess moisture from the spinach, then stir into the ricotta until evenly combined.
  7. To assemble the lasagna, spoon a thin layer of sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Cover with a layer of four lasagna noodles (you’ll need four per layer), followed by half of the roasted vegetables and a 1/2 cup of sauce. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly on top, followed by a thin layer of La Bomba. Top with a third layer of lasagna noodles, and spread with the last of the roasted vegetables and another 1/2 cup of marinara. Top off with one last layer of noodles. Pour the remaining marinara sauce overtop, then sprinkle evenly with mozzarella.
  8. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 5-10 minutes longer, or until lasagna is bubbly and cheese is melted and golden-brown.
  9. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the lasagna to firm up, then cut into pieces and serve piping hot with a green salad and crusty bread.

I still don’t believe it

My wife is the consummate hostess. She excels at making our home welcoming for our guests and at making it easy to be hosts. I love her gift of hospitality.

Part of this gift is her desire for me to be able to interact with our guests and not have to worry about the house or about details. She’s quite happy to be in the kitchen cleaning up after a meal and shoo me out to go entertain our guests. This is a great thing for me, right?

Except I have a hard time believing it. My wife and I are wired so differently that I don’t understand her sometimes. I wouldn’t be happy scrubbing dishes and cleaning up after everyone else. But she tells me she is. I ask her constantly, “Are you sure?” She always replies with a “yes,” and after the fifth time she starts to look at me like I’m a bit dense.

It’s a tricky thing, adjusting to life with a spouse. It seems an easy thing to do when the spouse is merely theoretical, when all you see when you here the word ‘wife’ is your own take on a Platonic ideal. But, when she’s an actual whole person with her own quirks and preferences, things can get a bit murky. And around here a murky view of this yields a lot of, “Are you sure?”

I must learn to trust her. To trust that if she wants help she will ask for it. To trust that when she enjoys something that I see as drudgery she is not lying to me. To trust my wife when she bucks the trends or expectations of others because she’s just wired that way. I must learn to not doubt her.