Friday, October 21, 2011

Seared Chicken Breasts with Pear Sauce

On Faith

I grew up in a non-religious (although not necessarily non-spiritual) house. At some point as a child, I remember asking myself what I would want God and heaven to be like if they existed. I made up my own idea of what the perfect religion would be. It went a little something like this:

Up in the sky, there was a head God, the GOD of all Gods. Below "him" (I've got the male image in my head because that's what we grew up with, but I'll reserve the right to assume that God is neither male nor female) were all these smaller Gods, Gods in training if you will. And each lower God was assigned to an individual. Which meant every person had his or her own God, sitting in a chair with a telephone, just waiting to be called upon. The image in my head was literally that of a telethon.

For years, this image stuck with me. Not that I told anyone I secretly thought my God was hanging out in a big room full of phones with lots of other lower deities. Okay, I didn't really think that, but it didn't stop me from mentally dialing the heavenly 911 and praying when I needed to.

Today, my image of God has grown, changed, morphed as I have. Whether I call it God, the collective unconscious, a higher power, or simply the power of the universe, the one thing that has remained the same is my deep conviction that something (someone?) is watching out for me. I've felt this my whole life, a belief that I feel physically more than I intellectually understand. In fact, the only time the feeling disappeared was during the months a few years back when I first became depressed, before I cut out gluten.

It was this belief that held me together when I moved to Seattle, and the same belief that has carried me this last year as I've consciously gone against my "better judgment" all year and instead followed my gut. It's led me to take on projects I've had no clue how to do (like write a cookbook), take time off from school, and make decisions about my future that scare the bejesus out of me.

Some would call it faith.

Writing a cookbook is no small task. It's time consuming and it's expensive. I can't eat most of what I make these days, so I give it all away. Just pass it along to my housemates or give it to a friend who brings it to Food Not Bombs. Sometimes I think about my school loans and then I look at my checkbook, and wonder how it will all work out. On those days, I begin to crunch numbers, to obsessively write down all the pluses and minuses, something I've done so many times there's truly no need to do it again. Recently, I asked a good friend how she handles the uncertainty of a life following her passion without knowing where the money will come from. In the end, it all comes down to one thing, she told me: faith.

I took that to heart. I've always budgeted myself well and been careful with my money. No amount of tedious jotting down of numbers will make more money suddenly appear under my pen. But for the first time in my life, I've let love and passion be more important than money. For the first time in my life, I don't know where my next paycheck is coming from. And I can honestly say I feel more fulfilled than I ever have. One housemate just left on a trip to Paris, and while my initial instinct was to think, "Man I wish I could do that," my second thought was the realization that I want nothing more than to be where I am, doing exactly what I'm doing. I'm not sure I've ever felt that way before. All I want now is the ability to continue doing what I'm doing.

Today, I stopped myself in mid complaint. About to utter the same old tired, "I'm broke," I just halted. And decided to have faith. Faith that I'm following the right path, and that God/The Universe is in my corner. My 911 to heaven would be heard and the money would come, somehow, someway. Not money to travel around the world or buy fancy clothes. But simply enough to live on, enough to bake, to buy quality ingredients and feel healthy. Just enough to be myself.

That was this morning. This afternoon I came home from an expensive cookbook grocery shopping trip, ready to tackle another recipe. And then the FedEx man came. With three packages. Containing a 32 ounce jar of Tropical Traditions coconut oil, a whole box of NuNaturals stevia products, and a $50 Bob's Red Mill gift certificate. The first two to review on the blog here, the last one a gift for participating in the Spar for the Spurtle contest a few months back. All free. All ingredients I need for the cookbook and blog.

The universe works in its own unique way. It's like my God was dialing down from the telethon to tell me, "Hey Chickadee, I got your back. Just have faith."

Seared Chicken Breasts with Pear Sauce (Print-Friendly Option)

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup packed parsley, minced (or substitute with 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch (sub: tapioca)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground mustard
½ teaspoon ground cloves
4 boneless skinless organic chicken breasts
4 pears, diced (leave peels on)
¼ cup raisins
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, zested
4 cups chicken broth

Fresh baby spinach (enough for 4 plates)


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir together parsley, starch, cumin, mustard, and cloves in a shallow dish. Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts with a paper towel, then dredge in the spice mixture until completely coated on both sides. Place chicken breasts in the skillet and sear for 3 minutes on each side.
  2. After searing the second side, add pears, raisins, and ginger to the skillet. Turn heat down to medium low and pour in chicken broth. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, covered. 
  3. After 15 minutes, check your chicken breasts (pierce with a knife to make sure they’re no longer pink inside) and remove to a serving dish. Cover with a top or tin foil to keep warm. If you have large chicken breasts and they’re not fully cooked, leave them in for five more minutes of the next step, then remove to a serving dish.
  4. With the top off the skillet, turn heat back up until broth reaches a gentle boil (medium to medium high). Allow broth to reduce until almost gone (about 10 minutes). 
  5. Serve chicken on top of a bed of spinach and pour pear sauce over the chicken. 
Serves 4.


Farty Girl said...

Once I visited the Ben Franklin museum in Philly. It's comprised of lots of winding hallways in a basement that lead to a room full of phones on platforms. You pick up a phone, dial a number on the wall, and somebody (from Patrick Henry to John Keats) answers and talks to you.

Nobody could get me away from those phones. I was in heaven. So I have to say, with the museum dim and smoky, and Keats' cockney voice yelling in my ear, it WAS quite a holy experience.

I can totally see the god telephone room as a place of spiritual sanctity!

Thank you for sharing that! So precious, the way our imagination resolves mysteries, when we are little!

Jonathan said...

Iris- Thank you so much for posting this. We have so much in common, it's not funny. But reading your post, the best word to describe all the things we have in common is this: affirming.

Everything that happened in previous decades, years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds - all of it brings us to this moment. And while we may be tested and challenged along the way, those times are necessary to help appreciate the victories, both large and small, that are coming our way.

And they are coming.

Can't wait to be a proud owner of your cookbook...

karrah said...

Loved this Iris..onward my friend..

Alta said...

Love this post, Iris. And this recipe too! I'm about to get a bunch of pears from a friend who has pear trees, and this would be perfect.

Heather @ Life Gluten Free said...

That looks good! we will have to try it!


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