Rooted In Wonder:
Nurturing Your Family's Faith Through God's Creation
Master Naturalist, Bible teacher, author, wife, and mama of four! Join our adventures of discovering God while adventuring in creation.
The summer before we married, Grayson spent a couple of months working for a road construction crew in Oklahoma. It was a desperate yet romantic act on his part to save for an engagement ring.
At the same time, I was working my only ever corporate job, traveling around the Midwest inspecting the cleanliness of daycare centers and U.S. Postal buildings. It was about as exhilarating as it sounds.
This was when I learned that I’m not cut out for long-distance relationships. I decided that since I already had to drive over to Iowa to check on some buildings, I might as well tack on a few extra miles and visit Gray down in Oklahoma for a day. And so at eighteen, I drove 17 hours (one way) straight through the night to meet my man and spend a whole day with him before making the drive back home. I checked on a few postal buildings on the way home to qualify it as a work trip. Oh the things we do for love.
It was during one of Gray’s nightly phone calls to me from Oklahoma that he asked me for some financial advice. We were only still dating, but already he wanted to include me in his financial decisions, and so he asked me this very important question: “Do you think I should buy a toaster oven?”
Now ok—I realize this question might seem silly. A joke, even. But at the time it aggravated me. A toaster oven? He even wanted to opt for the mid-grade $40 version! He reasoned that if he could cook meals in his hotel room, then he wouldn’t spend as much money eating out. His argument was sound, but it fell on deaf ears. All I saw was us stepping forty more dollars away from my ring and our official engagement. Seriously…a toaster oven.
I reluctantly told him to go ahead and purchase the thing. I’m sure I gave him a half-lie sort of answer, something along the lines of, “Sure, yeah I mean, whatever.” Us women are clear like that.
Well it’s 5 years later and we still have that $40 appliance. It’s had some rough days. One in particular comes to mind. Zeke was newly turned two years old, and with his birthday came some new responsibilities, like throwing soiled diapers into the trash can. One morning as I finished changing his new baby brother, I asked Zeke to throw Ellis’ diaper in the trash. Zeke dutifully took the diaper and disappeared into the kitchen to place it in the garbage, I presumed. Five minutes later I wondered into the kitchen to discover the soiled diaper in the toaster oven. With the oven turned on.
These are the moments I am truly perplexed over what goes through my two-year-old’s mind.
Our toaster oven is always that dirty, by the way. I feel like that needs to be said.
Rough days aside, our lowly toaster oven has also had its days of glory, most of them this past month. A while back I wrote a post entitled “Tour Of A Food Blogger’s Kitchen”; in it I divulged some of the makeshift tools we use to make food in our kitchen. I revealed our broken, dated, even rusty gadgets behind some of our best meals, proving that you really don’t need fancy kitchen ware to cook great food.
Well, I took this theory a step further this month. If you read my last blog post, you know that we recently moved from Milwaukee to Kansas City, our house fell through, and we’ve been living in a less-than-ideal but blessing nonetheless of an apartment. (Read the story of our move, here)
For the past five weeks I have been without a working oven, and so I’ve been cooking everything (well, everything that will fit) in, you guessed it, that darned toaster oven!
Let me just tell you, I had no idea of the capabilities of these things! Size is the only limit–whatever I can shove into a 8×8 baking pan is free game! Oh, except pasta bakes. Those are a bad idea in the toaster oven.
Pasta bakes aside, we have been using our nifty little toaster oven to roast nuts for fruit and nut bars and trail mix, bake fruit crumbles, make calzones, and roasting garlic and other vegetables.
I had to laugh to myself one evening after I texted my husband, “Let me know when you’re on your way home so I can preheat the toaster for dinner.”
It’s times like these when I discover that the necessary equipment to get a job done, or a dinner baked, isn’t all that necessary after all. For instance, the other night we enjoyed our new favorite soup—the most flavorful and fresh roasted tomato, pepper, and garlic soup—made in only our toaster oven and blender.
The original recipe for this soup comes from my friend Halle Cottis, who I blog for on her website www.wholelifestylenutrition.com
This soup is the epitome of fresh, and it celebrates the produce of late summer and early fall in all of its glory. It fills the kitchen with a warm aroma that can only be the product of a meal made at home to be enjoyed as a family around the dinner table. It’s one my kids will grow up on, dipping into it some grilled cheese on fresh sourdough straight out of the oven.
I love roasted garlic. It’s simple. It’s buttery. It’s mild yet rich. It adds a whole new dimension to dishes, and is easy enough to prep ahead of time and have ready on hand in the fridge.
**The slice on your veggies doesn’t really matter. After all, in the end they are all getting blended together.
I know this seems less than exact. It is. We’re not baking, after all, and this is no science. The beauty of this soup is that it is extremely versatile. The choice of ingredients are about as malleable as the tools used to create it. Use whatever is fresh in your garden, or whatever catches your eye at the farmers market. Depending on which fresh tomatoes and peppers are available, the soup can differ in taste each time you make it, yet always produce an unbelievably fresh roasted flavor.
I thought it fitting that we made this soup during such a time in our life as this. After all, it is all about improvising; composing a beautiful meal with whatever is readily available–even a lowly toaster oven. And that’s just what we’ve been striving to do this past month during our move. To compose something beautiful out of unexpected and less than ideal circumstances.
This week I met a missionary. His son is a marine. This missionary told me that he has quickly adopted one of the Marines mantras as his own: “Improvise, adapt, and overcome.”
I like it. I think it sums up my past 5 weeks, only by the grace of God.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!