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Come to the TableFood, Fellowship, and a Celebration of God's Bounty
By Benita Long
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Benita Long
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt Is Pleasant for the Eyes to Behold the Sun
The First Meal of the Day
How do you break the fast of night? Is the first nourishment of your day physical or is it spiritual? Are your earliest hours hurried and hectic or more leisurely? Whatever your routine, morning is a time for fresh sustenance from the earth, and for renewed thinking as well. The reflections in this section center around the nature of morning. Using the Bible as a "lens" [Marcus Borg], they shed new light on this beautiful time of day. What did God mean when He "called the light Day" [Genesis 1:5]?
Throughout the Bible, morning is imagined in many ways. In Genesis 3:8 it is the "cool" of day and in I Samuel 9:26 it is the "dawning." In more human imagery, Job 41:18 calls it the "eyelids" and Solomon describes it as the time that day "breathes." On his deathbed, King David prays for a king "like the light of the morning" [2 Samuel 23:4]. In the New Testament, Paul uses the image of morning as an opportunity for Christians to "put on the armor of light" [Romans 13:12].
In like manner, this imagery has often tethered poets to the Bible. We hope that you will enjoy hearing their combined voices. The pages of this section are to entice you! Receive your first meal of the day with gladness. Recall often the words of the poet Henry David Thoreau: "Renew thyself completely each day, do it again, and again, and forever again."
Yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. [2 Corinthians 4:16]
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Oh Lord, with each returning morn Thine image to our hearts is born. Oh may we ever clearly see Our Savior and our God in Thee. O joyful be the passing day With thoughts as clear as morning's ray With faith like noontide shining bright Our souls unshadowed by the night. [Ambrose of Milan, c. 340–397]
The First Meal of the Day
Italian Sausage Strata | 13 Orange Cranberry Bread | 14 Parmesan Grits Casserole | 17 Marian's Brunch Apricots | 18 Creamed Chicken on Cornbread | 21 Tomato Gruyère Pie | 22 Glazed Lemon Muffins | 25 Spicy Hash Browns | 26
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Father, we praise Thee, now the night is over: Active and watchful stand we all before thee: Singing we offer prayer and meditation: Thus we adore Thee. [Gregory the Great, 540–604]
Italian Sausage Strata
Makes 6 to 8 servings
½ pound hot or mild Italian sausage, casings removed 4 tablespoons (½ stick) softened butter, divided 8 ounces sliced white or crimini mushrooms 6 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed 12 ounces New York sharp Cheddar cheese, grated 4 eggs, beaten 2 cups whole milk 1 teaspoon dry mustard salt, to taste
Cook the sausage in 2 tablespoons of the butter, breaking the meat into small pieces. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté in the drippings. Butter one side of each bread slice with the remaining butter. In a 1½-quart round casserole, layer 3 slices of the bread, half of the sausage, half of the mushrooms, and half of the shredded cheese. Repeat the layers. Combine the eggs, milk, mustard, and salt. Pour over the layers and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world." [John 11:9]
"But let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength." [Judges 5:31]
I, Jesus ... the Bright and Morning Star. [Revelation 22:16]
Orange Cranberry Bread
Makes 2 loaves
1 navel orange (about ½ pound) 2¼ cups sugar, divided 3 cups fresh cranberries 4 eggs, lightly beaten 1¼ cups vegetable oil 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup chopped pecans
Slice the unpeeled orange into small sections, removing any seeds and tough white membrane. In a food processor or blender, combine the orange slices and 1¼ cups of the sugar and pulse until the oranges are finely diced. Add the cranberries and pulse until the oranges and cranberries are very finely minced. Set aside for at least 30 minutes for the juices to form.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cranberry mixture, eggs, and oil and mix well. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 1 cup sugar, the cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and pecans. Add the cranberry mixture to the dry ingredients and stir gently until blended. Divide the batter evenly between each loaf pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Note: This bread is delicious toasted.
* * *
My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Lord, In the morning I will direct it to you, and I will look up. [Psalm 5:3]
Every morn shall lead thee through Fresh baptisms of the dew. [John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807–1892]
Parmesan Grits Casserole
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2½ cups water 4 cups milk 1¾ cups grits 1 clove garlic, crushed 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter 3 eggs, beaten 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided 1½ teaspoons salt ½ teaspoon black pepper ½ teaspoon white pepper paprika
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring the water and milk to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the grits and cook until thick, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and butter and cool slightly. Add the eggs, ½ cup of the cheese, the salt, black pepper, and white pepper. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish. Top with the remaining ½ cup cheese and the paprika. Bake for 45 minutes or until set in the center.
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Albert Einstein once wrote that religion without science is blind, and science without religion is lame. The parallels between the morning star of science and the Morning Star of faith would no doubt have bemused that great genius. The morning star of science rises at daybreak. Known as Sirius, it is the brightest star in the universe. When at its hottest point, rivers overflow and the land is renewed. Ancient people dated their years by its positioning. Slightly to the west of Sirius is a prophet star, Mirzan, possibly meaning "herald" in Arabic. This name was often given to other stars that preceded or heralded the rising of a brighter star. When Jesus called himself the Morning Star, he knew these things. He also knew that the present-day astronomers would remain perplexed as to why, over the centuries, Sirius had changed colors. For two thousand years it was described as red. In an observation in about 1000 B.C. a change was noted. Why? Jesus could easily have explained that it was His earthly ancestor David to whom God had first promised a Savior of royal blood. In 1000 B.C. David was King of Israel, and in that year coppery-colored Sirius changed to white!
Marian's Brunch Apricots
Makes 12 servings
4 (15-ounce) cans apricot halves 1 (15-ounce) can pitted sour cherries 1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries 35 Ritz crackers, crushed ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a 2-quart casserole layer one half of the apricots, cherries, and blueberries. Sprinkle with one half the cracker crumbs and brown sugar. Repeat layers. Pour the melted butter on top. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the mixture is hot and bubbly.
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Very early in the morning. [Mark 16:2]
For all Christians, the morning of mornings is when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome find the empty tomb of our Resurrected Lord. That God chose this time of day is not surprising. The Bible is filled with stories of early risers: Abimelech, Abraham, Jacob, Laban, Joseph, Moses, Balaam, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, and, of course, Jesus with his disciples. The virtuous wife of Proverbs 31:15, who "rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household" remains nameless! "Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates" [verse 31:31].
Creamed Chicken on Cornbread
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1½ pounds bone-in chicken breasts, poached ½ cup sliced green onions 1 cup chopped celery 8 ounces sliced mushrooms 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided ¾ cup flour 1½ cups milk or half-and-half ½ cup chicken broth 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten ½ cup green peas (if frozen, thawed) 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced salt and pepper, to taste 6 to 8 pieces cornbread, split in half
Remove the chicken from the bone and cut into small pieces. Set aside.
Sauté the green onions, celery, and mushrooms in 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan until tender. Remove from the pan and set aside. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and stir in the flour until smooth. In a bowl combine the milk, broth, and egg yolks. Add to the flour and stir over low heat until thick and smooth. Stir in the sautéed vegetables, chicken, peas, and hard-boiled eggs. Season with salt and pepper. If necessary, stir in a small amount of broth or milk to thin. Serve hot over the halved cornbread slices.
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Awake, lute and harp I will awaken the dawn. [Psalm 108:2]
The innocent brightness of a newborn day Is lovely yet. [William Wordsworth, 1770–1850]
Tomato Gruyère Pie
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 (9-inch) refrigerated pie dough rounds, unfolded and rolled together 4 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced 1½ cups grated aged Gruyère cheese 1½ cups good quality mayonnaise 8 large fresh basil leaves, chopped 3 tablespoons chopped green onions pepper, to taste paprika, for color
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pie crust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Arrange the tomatoes in circles over the crust. In a bowl combine the cheese, mayonnaise, basil, green onions, and pepper. Spread over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly.
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If morning skies, Books, and my food, and summer rain Knocked on my sullen heart in vain – Lord, thy most pointed pleasure take, And stab my spirit broad awake. [Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850–1894] 22 I Come to the Table
Glazed Lemon Muffins
Makes 72 mini muffins
muffins 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 cups granulated sugar 1½ teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1½ cups corn oil 1½ cups milk 3 eggs, slightly beaten 1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 medium oranges, zested and juiced 2 lemons, zested and juiced 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat six 12-cup mini-muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil, milk, eggs, and lemon extract and beat until smooth. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just moist. Pour the batter into the muffin pans about three-quarters full. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for a few minutes.
To prepare the glaze, combine the juices, zests, and confectioners' sugar. Mix well. Dip the warm muffins into the glaze and dry on wire racks set over waxed paper. These freeze beautifully!
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Christ, whose glory fills the skies Christ, the true, the only light Sun of Righteousness arise Triumph o'er the shades of night; Day-spring from on high be near Day-star in my heart appear [Charles Wesley, 1707–1788]
Spicy Hash Browns
Makes 4 servings
8 medium red potatoes 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter 1 large mild onion, chopped ½ pound Andouille sausage, chopped into small cubes salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium saucepan cover the potatoes with water and simmer until done; drain. When cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes into ¼-inch rounds.
In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook the onion until golden. Add the potatoes and sausage to the pan and pat down evenly. Cook until brown on the bottom. Carefully turn over with a large spatula to keep the hash browns from breaking apart. Continue to cook until brown on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.
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It is good to give thanks to the Lord. And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your loving kindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night. [Psalm 92:1–2]
Once more the Heavenly Power Makes all things new. [Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1809–1892]
"If I take the wings of morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me." [Psalm 139:9–10]
I Heard Your Voice in the Garden [Genesis 3:10]
Parties, Picnics, and Lunch in a Basket
Come now, please join us in the garden, your ancestral home! As you embrace a daily routine of celebration, let your heart become one of a pilgrim, a sacred life traveler. Be aware, however, that no pilgrimage would be complete without a few unexpected turns.
Throughout history, in many traditions of faith, the moment of revelation or epiphany has come against a backdrop of the natural world. How then can we experience this nature, more specifically, the garden, differently? We anticipate that after perusing this chapter you will see these spaces as consecrated and will eagerly make a commitment to take as many meals there as possible.
In both the Old and New Testaments, gardens served a myriad of functions. They were places where food was both grown [Genesis 2:9; Jeremiah 29:5; Amos 9:14] and eaten [Esther 1:5; Song of Solomon 2:4]. They provided quiet retreat [Esther 7:7] and a place for meeting friends [John 18:1]. They afforded physical protection [Song of Solomon 1:17] and cool relief from the heat of the day [Genesis 3:8]. In addition to these pragmatic functions, the garden was used by Old and New Testaments writers as a tool of imagery. In Genesis, it represented beauty perfected [2:9]; in Isaiah, joy and gladness [51:3]. For Jeremiah, the garden signified a commitment [29:5] and in Ezekiel, it symbolized restoration [36:35]. Yet none of these representations are as powerful or as important as the central role played by the garden as the setting for man's reconciliation with God. We were meant to live in a garden, specifically, Eden. Within that paradise, mankind separated himself from his Creator and was forced into exile. Yet at that very moment, a forgiving Lord clothed his children [Genesis 3:21] and began planning their redemption. How poignant it is to remember that it was to another garden, Gethsemane, that Christ retreated to wage, and ultimately win, the battle for all humanity. It was in this garden that Jesus surrendered to the will of our Father. Was it not totally appropriate that the earthly body of the Savior was laid to rest for three days in the new tomb of a third garden, that belonging to Joseph of Arimathea? We experience the garden, not only as a place of magnificent creation and constant renewal, but also as a source of divine resurrection and ultimate redemption. It is our hope that the following pages will, in some small way, enable you to hear the "voice in the garden."
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Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf in springtime. [Martin Luther, 1483–1546]
Excerpted from Come to the Table by Benita Long Copyright © 2008 by Benita Long . Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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