Simple ingredients are always willing to be turned into a delicious meal like this Chicken Fra Diavolo Bake; but sometimes, we, the people, need a little reminder to relinquish our control and allow ourselves to go wherever the flow takes us, and just be in the moment.
When words of wisdom come out from the mouths of babes, it is a thing to rejoice in.
Young people are our future, and when they speak of things of a mature nature, things that demonstrate a consciousness and an awareness, it offers up hope in the fact that their young minds are indeed thinking and contemplating, and considering the notion that there is something grater than they are that guides them along in life and places them in specific circumstances.
Having our son, a young, new Marine, home with us during the holiday season was a blessing and a treat beyond what my words can express.
And each time my husband and I have gone to pick him up from base to bring him home, whether it was for Thanksgiving or for Christmas and the New Year this last time around, we’re finding ourselves commenting on how much he’s maturing and growing in understanding as a young man, and in his spirituality as well.
He said something during a conversation with us that has stuck with me, something that I would like to adopt myself and take into this new year as a new way of thinking.
He said, “The way that I feel now is that wherever the flow takes me, then that’s where I’ll go.”
In other words, he’s made a conscious decision to make all efforts to not resist wherever he finds himself in life in any given moment.
Simple enough of a philosophy, right?
But not easy to live by, necessarily.
And part of the reason that it sort of struck me, this motto that my son has these days, is because it shows just how far he’s come.
See, it’s not so easy to relinquish control in life, and allow the river, the “flow”, to take us wherever it feels we need to go, placing us in whatever circumstances it feels we need to experience.
We seem more comfortable attempting to navigate things ourselves the most, or trying to rig our outcomes, or trying to present ourselves a certain way in order to avoid getting real, and in turn, getting vulnerable.
But really, the “flow” is just another descriptor for our Creator, and allowing Him to do His work in our lives and to take us through experiences both wonderful and challenging that will ultimately be best for us and our personal growth.
It is relinquishing ourselves to Him.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to say, “I will simply allow this day to unfold in whatever way it will, and I will eagerly experience whatever there is to experience because of it; I will look upon whatever circumstances I find myself in as opportunities to grow and to gain awareness, and will trust that wherever I find myself is exactly the right place for me, in this particular moment.”
The “not knowing” is difficult for us.
It’s a real challenge to put down our desires to control every aspect of our lives, and turn them over to the One who created us, and to whom we are connected and are a part of the very fabric of—always have been, always will be.
It’s a matter of trust, and a matter of willingness.
The beauty of food is that it’s willing to be turned into whatever we choose to turn it into; it’s willing to allow the flow (you or me as the ones working with it) to turn it into whatever meal we decide, no resistance.
If there is a bit of pasta, a bit of chicken, a savory and fiery sauce and some creamy cheese, suddenly there is the possibility of spicy Chicken Fra Diavolo baked to perfection, ready to be enjoyed and relished with gusto.
But we humans apparently have minds and ideas of our own, which makes us beautifully unique and perpetual works-in-progress.
For us, it’s a journey and a life’s work to relinquish our control, and to begin to embrace the idea of going wherever the flow takes us, then finding ourselves there, and really taking in our surroundings fully.
The idea, truly, is to release the burden from ourselves; to relinquish control over what we have no control over, but only perceive to.
What we do have some say in, however, is how we react in the circumstances we find ourselves in, and what we choose to take from them.
So for me in this new year, I’d like to experience going wherever the flow decides to take me, and trust that it is a path that is custom created especially for me.
I’d like to relinquish my worry or my concerns over the future and what will happen—the unknown—and wait to see where I find myself each and every day on this adventure that is life, and then go forward accordingly and with eyes wide open.
See, it’s always worth listening to that which flows out of the mouths of babes.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Chicken Fra Diavolo Bake with Penne Pasta and Mozzarella Cheese
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves about 4-6
• 1 – 1 ½ pounds chicken breast tenders (or skinless, boneless breasts) cut into bite-sized pieces
• Black pepper
• 1 teaspoon granulated onion
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• Canola oil
• 1 onion, finely diced
• 6 large cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on how spicy you like things!)
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 3 tablespoons tomato paste
• ½ cup white wine (you can also use red)
• 42 ounces canned, crushed tomatoes (that’s 1 (28 ounce) can plus 1 (14 ounce) can)
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-lead parsley
• 8-10 ounces dry penne pasta, cooked according to package instructions and held warm
• 2 cups whole-milk mozzarella cheese, grated/shredded
• ¼ cup julienned basil leaves, for garnish
-Preheat oven to 350°, and lightly mist a baking/casserole dish with cooking spray.
-Season the chicken pieces with a couple of good pinches of salt and black pepper, plus the granulated onion and garlic, and toss to coat; sprinkle in the flour, and toss to coat the pieces once again.
-Place a medium-size pot or a large saute pan over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 3-4 tablespoons of oil; once hot, add in the chicken pieces in a single layer (work in a couple of batches, if necessary), and allow them to sit, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes, or until golden-brown and slightly crisp on that first side; stir and allow the chicken to become golden-brown on all sides for a few minutes more; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside for a moment.
-Into the pot/pan add a touch more oil (if needed), and add in the diced onion; saute for 2-3 minutes, then add in the garlic, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and the tomato paste, and stir together to combine; cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
-Add in the wine, followed by the crushed tomatoes, and a few pinches of salt and pepper; lower the heat to medium-low/low, and allow the sauce to simmer gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes; finish the sauce with the chopped parsley, and a little more salt and pepper, if needed.
-Add your cooked penne pasta into the sauce, along with the chicken pieces, and gently stir to combine; turn the mixture out into your prepared baking/casserole dish, and top with the mozzarella cheese; bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
-Serve with some fresh basil as garnish.