Book Review: Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (and a new favorite recipe!)

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I wish it wasn’t so weird to have girl crushes. But sometimes, I think having a girl crush on a Christian author is forgivable. For the past few years, I’ve been hopelessly devoted to Jen Hatmaker, but I think that I’m ready to open up my heart to another. Shauna Niequist, can we be friends?

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table is one of Shauna’s newest books, and there is not a single page in the book that disappoints. The premise of Bread and Wine is the most perfect mix of food, community, heartbreak, success, humor, sorrow, and that feeling inside that makes you want to reread a page over and over just to make sure you never forget the words she wrote.

Ever since Morgan and I got married, we’ve tried to spend at least one night per week sharing a meal with friends. We don’t have kids or pets or any huge commitments after work, so this is barely a sacrifice. We’ve loved making new friends and deepening long-time friendships through these dinners that are usually shared over a meal I’m attempting to make for the first time. We’ll all settle around our tiny kitchen table, Morgan will bless the food, and I’ll immediately shovel a forkful of my most daring dish into my mouth. Morgan always looks horrified when I do this, but I reserve the right to take something off the table if it’s horrible! That’s my pride we’re messing with!

But Shauna’s book changed my view on these dinners. Yes–I’ll never stop trying to make these meals delicious, but my intent now is to open up my home to be a safe place of comfort. Where people can walk in and take a glass of good wine, a deep breath, and a break from reality. Because, really, our most basic needs are found around the table–in food, in community, in friendship, in comfort. If I can provide a sliver of that for the people we love the most, I call it a success.

She writes, “The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”

And I don’t know if there’s a better way to share the love of Jesus than opening up your life to others. The ugly, the dirty, the pain, the failures…putting them all on the table (not literally….literally, we try to keep our table real clean and pretty). In our weakness and our struggles is the place where we show the deep need for the cross more than in the put-together facade. It’s also refreshing to be real with one another, realizing that we’re not alone in this chaotic, confusing, challenging, beautiful stage of life.

Shauna also introduced the idea of a Cooking Club–they’ve got a group of six or seven friends that gets together monthly, without fail. Though we changed the name to Supper Club to sound overtly mature and to have reason to use the grandma emoji in our group messages, some wonderful friends of ours are having our first installation this coming week. I can’t wait to start this tradition around the table. Maybe I’ll even remember to blog about it.

To use a nice food pun, I devoured this book. I’d give it 5 stars and read it again in a heartbeat. Totally recommend to those who want to embody generosity and hospitality and also want to hear from someone else that the struggles of life are normal, and that there’s hope in the cross to find joy in the mundane. I’m already reading another book of Shauna’s and will review it when I finish!

At the end of most chapters, Shauna shares a favorite recipe, which are quickly becoming our favorite recipes as well! I made “Annette’s Enchiladas” for my in-laws a few weeks back, and, just like she writes in the book, I could destroy a whole pan of these enchiladas all by myself (I was feeling generous, so I shared…but I refused to share the leftovers. I earned those.). I followed the recipe to a T, it was super easy, and they’re pretty much perfect.

Annette’s Enchiladas

1 cup sour cream
1 28-ounce can green enchilada sauce
2 4-ounce small cans green chilies, diced
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced (I cooked this in the crockpot while working to speed up the process!)
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
12 corn tortillas
1 cup chicken broth
Cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 dish with nonstick spray.

2. Mix sour cream, enchilada sauce, and green chilies in a bowl.

3. Cover the bottom of the 9×13 dish with a thin layer of the sauce.

4. In a medium skillet, simmer the chicken broth on low. You’re going to layer the bottom of the dish with 4 tortillas, but you’ll want to use tongs and pass them through the broth to make them softer. Do this quick so that the tortillas don’t disintegrate šŸ˜‰

5. Layer those 4 tortillas over the first layer of sauce.

6. Add half of the chicken on top of the tortillas, then a third of the sauce and a third of the cheese. Repeat so that there are two full layers of tortilla-chicken-sauce-cheese.

7. Finish off the pan with a final layer of 4 tortillas, the final third of sauce, and the final third of cheese.

8. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes–until warmed through and the cheese is melted.

9. Let sit at least 15 minutes before cutting. Chop up the cilantro and sprinkle it on top before serving.

(This serves about 6-8 big servings. I pair it with chips, guacamole, mexican rice, and a 3-bean avocado salad! Enjoy!)

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