Monday, December 6, 2010


Really!  Enough is enough! 

This is what I was thinking as I was chopping, mixing, sautéing and otherwise putting together our second Advent meal.  My last two meal-related posts have been of the “Dust yourself off” variety, describing what it feels like to overcome – or at least deal with – challenging circumstances (kitchen-related ones, that is).  But by Sunday night, I was ready for a break!

Come on!  How much is one person supposed to take?  I am trying to celebrate the birth of Christ, after all!    Can’t I have just one peaceful Advent evening like I’ve been envisioning?  The kind one might see on a Christmas card?  One that seems to embody the Peace for which we lit a candle?

I imagine you have guessed by now that I spent another rather frustrating Advent Sunday in the kitchen.  On top of a busy weekend, little rest and a throbbing headache, I began making Hamburger Pie, Vegetable Wraps and Butterfinger Fluff.  Vivian was upset, a theme I am having to repeat far too often.  We worry about her medicine.  Is she sick?  Tired from doing too much?  Bored from doing too little?  We don’t know, but are worried about this ongoing problem.  In the middle of this, Todd is telling me about additional costs for HDTV, and I am learning that carrots don’t need to be sautéed. 

I reached a point, however, when I had to ask myself why I am giving in to frustration so very quickly.  How terrible are things, really?  It took me finally sitting down to dinner and taking a deep breath to make me realize that things aren’t so bad after all.  The meal was on time.  With only minor hiccups, the food turned out as it was supposed to.  The kids even ate it – not a lot, but some (tip: having the yummy dessert sitting on the table with the rest of the meal is a helpful incentive for children to eat vegetables).  I was even surprised to notice that by the time the kids sat down at the table, they were calm and cooperative.

We do fall in love with our own visions of how things should go.  I hope I am not the only one who is prone to building a Norman Rockwell-style image of home and family, only to be let down by reality.  But when I think about it, disappointment is insane.  Reality is great for most of us.  In all probability, our disappointment is only the result of getting too much of what we want for too much of the time.  Our expectations can become pretty unrealistic and our hopes (and tempers) break too easily.  An overdose of good things can make us awfully thin skinned.  I found that it took an act of will to train my eyes off of the negative and onto what is good.  Simply remembering to do it was the only difficult thing.  When I decided to look for the best, there was plenty there to see.

The hamburger pie went without a hitch.  It is a great dish including both meat and vegetables.  Probably you could add more veggies if you wanted, or use fresh rather than canned.  I can’t quite call this an easy recipe as it again requires peeling, cooking and mashing potatoes, but it did provide me with a new opportunity.  To be honest, I had never mashed potatoes before in my life.  Now I have.  And so has Roland. 

Still trying to get the kids involved in cooking, I lured Roland to help me do the mashing.  We don’t actually own a potato masher (in fact, I get the giggles just thinking that there is such a utensil), so we used the flat side of a meat tenderizer.  I tried to get Roland interested in the work by emphasizing the violent aspect of it.  “Bang, bang, bang . . .” I said as I pummeled the potatoes.  Roland, who isn’t the violent type, took the utensil and solemnly repeated after me, “bang, bang, bang . . .”  He didn’t mash many.  One round and it was back to Frosty, the Snowman.  But he tried.  For a moment, he was involved.  It was a start.  Maybe it will grow from here.  As we go along, my expectations are gradually bending to reality and I am learning to appreciate even the small victories.

The Butterfinger Fluff was heavenly.   The wraps were yummy and a good source of many different kinds of vegetables.  Since the Christmas season has started, I have been including in each meal one recipe from a book called Cook’s Essentials Recipes Plus: Christmas.  A dear friend gave it to me last year and I have been eager to try it out.  Since I am uncertain about copyright laws, I won’t reprint the recipe for Grilled Vegetable Wraps.  But since I was unable to locate many of the ingredients, such as eggplant and leeks, I made a lot of substitutions and changes anyway.  Here is my recreated version.

Chop up your choice of vegetables.  Cook as you feel like.  Spread some hummus on a tortilla, top with the vegetables.  Roll up and slice.  Yum.

This Sunday, we lit a candle for peace.  Last Sunday, the candle and the message was hope.  Being a little behind as I sometimes am, I think I am just beginning to learn hope’s lesson; that hope is all one can do in the absence of certainty.  I can only hope that what I am trying to do will be enough to raise strong kids, build a sturdy family, construct an honorable life.  I hope that the seeds I am planting will grow.  I hope.

We can try our best, but we can’t control life’s outcome.  Like the sower of the parable, we have to cast our efforts and our desires into the wind, not knowing where they will end up or what they will become.  There is so much we would like to see happen, and so little we can control.  All we can do is pray and plant and hope.

Blessed eating.

Hamburger Pie
1 lb. ground beef                                             1 t. salt
½ onion, chopped                                            1 can cond. Tomato soup
½ c. water                                                         1 can wh. kernel corn
1 can English peas                                            6 potatoes, creamed*
Brown the ground beef.  Drain well.  Add onion, salt, and water.  Simmer about 20 minutes.  Cook the corn and peas separately.  Put the meat mixture in the bottom of the large baking dish.  Layer the soup, peas and corn.  The potatoes should be placed on top of all of this.  Bake at 350o until the potatoes are golden brown. – Learvene T. Bass

Butterfinger Fluff
Ingredients:  Packaged Brownie mix, packaged instant Chocolate pudding, 16oz. bowl of Cool Whip, two large Butterfinger candy bars

Bake packaged brownies by package recipe.   Crumble brownies in a pretty large fruit dish.  Make instant chocolate pudding by package directions.  Layer ½ of pudding on brownies.  Layer ½ of Cool Whip on pudding.  Layer other ½ of pudding on Cool Whip.  Layer other ½ of Cool Whip on pudding.  Top with crumbled and crushed Butterfinger.  Beautiful dish and delicious.  Jan Kinsaul


  1. My first cooking job at my granny's house was mashing potatoes. You need to shop for a nifty masher. There are some cool ones out there. Also, for even more fun, try a potato ricer. It makes the potatoes finer and creamier but it is harder work!

  2. "why I am giving in to frustration so very quickly"

    Thank you for your words my friend - I need them . . .

    Advent Blessings on ya,

  3. Augh! The picture - perfect Christmas never does materialize, does it? But it seems like every year I HOPE that it will happen this time around....
    I can't believe you have never mashed potatoes yet you make cheese! : )

  4. Isn't it funny how unrealistic expectations can keep us from enjoying what we have. Our holidays are marvelous, but I might miss out on that because I'm expecting something different.

    I'll have to look into the potato masher. Maybe there is a calling here. :)