Thursday, March 31, 2011

More About Sweets

How sweet are your words to my taste,
   sweeter than honey to my mouth!
         Psalm 119:103

“There was pleasure in eating strawberries before they became quite common, in the first dish of peas while they were yet dear.”  British essayist, Charles Lamb, wrote of the pleasures to be gained from foods not easily come by.  Lamb had grown up in a household of limited means knew the joys of tasting foods which were not always readily available.  He also understood that too much accessibility made these same foods (or anything) lose their sparkle.

I am learning something similar this Lent.  I have given up sweets and desserts, a discipline which has been much harder than it sounds.  In renouncing sweets, however, I have learned to appreciate sweetness where I can find it, most often in its natural setting.  I find myself surprised by raisins in oatmeal, bananas on cereal, strawberries or sweet potatoes.  They are so much more delectable than they seemed before that it catches me off guard.  I have to remind myself that they are actually allowed! that I am not breaking my fast to enjoy them.

It wasn’t all that long ago that fresh fruit was not as commonplace as it is now, certainly not in every season.  Fruit was the rare treat and therefore enjoyed far more than today.  Europeans went wild over oranges when they were first introduced.  Affluent households sometimes built special glass houses in which to grow these delicacies.  Named orangeries, these structures were the forebears of the modern greenhouse.

Today, we parents work hard to make sure our children have enough fruits and vegetables.  Fruit is nothing like the exotic rarity that it once was.  Candy bars and doughnuts, with their more direct and intense sweetness, have far outshined their more natural competitors.  By comparison, a meager orange seems hardly worth notice.

But this is the purpose of a Lenten fast:  to give up one thing so that we might learn to value something better.  During these weeks, we are called to realign our tastes and our habits so that we can better appreciate what is good; what is delivered to us from the hand of God. 

In this Lenten season, may you discern and grow to love the best that God has for you.

I got the inspiration for this improvised dish - below - at a dinner at Cedar Hill Enrichment Center.  (I’ll be blogging about them soon).  Since it does involve some sugar, I made it on Sunday.  It was our breakfast even though it was originally a dessert.  Raspberries were initially used on top, but I had strawberries when I made it, so I used them.  Either way, it is eye-rolling good.

Blessed Eating!

Sweet Potato Crumble
2-3 sweet potatoes                         ½ - 1 stick of butter
½ c. flour                                              ¼ c. brown sugar
chopped nuts                                    strawberries or raspberries
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1 or 2 inch cubes.  Place in a baking dish.  Place slices of butter on the sweet potatoes and bake at about 350o for about an hour or so.  While it is cooking mix flour, brown sugar and nuts in a bowl.  When the sweet potatoes are soft, remove them from the oven.  Mash them up.  Top with the flour mixture.  Drizzle melted butter over the top if you feel like it.  Cook for another 20-ish minutes.  Remove from oven.  Cool.  Top with berries and enjoy.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.         Matthew 5:48

A couple of weeks ago, I hosted a luncheon at my house.  Members of our Outreach Committee were invited along with some leaders of local non-profits.  Together we discussed ways that our church could be involved in meeting the needs in our community.  This is the kind of conversation I love to have.

While having the conversation came naturally, having guests in our home was an area where I was rusty.  I overdid the event, of course (though I find that’s rarely a problem when it comes to food).  Instead of going “light” – as in the typical ladies lunch – I thought it would be worth blogging about so I pulled out the Bass Family and Friends cookbook and chose Pepsi Pot Roast and Grape Salad.  

The Pepsi Pot Roast is made in the crock pot, which is always great because it makes the house smell like the meal you are waiting for.  I had to get up early to start it and give it the full 6 hours to cook.  But after I turned off the alarm, the rest was easy.  The recipe simply requires putting the ingredients in, then turning the knob on the cooker.

Grape Salad is one of those dishes for which the name, I assume, is a metaphor.  It is far more dessert than salad and is, therefore, a very decadent part of the meal.  I also served an Indian-style rice from another cookbook, and made an appetizer of bruschetta topped with caramelized onions, apples and blue cheese (if you link to it, you have to scroll down a bit to get to this recipe) from a Grace Before Meals newsletter.  Thank you, Nicole, for bringing the delicious dessert.  If I do say so myself, the meal was awesome.

Cooking wasn’t the only labor, however.  As my husband and I haven’t played host in a long time, we also haven’t done much deep cleaning.  As a result, we have a house full of small handprints on the wall, crayon art, plus the dents and scuffs that come not only from children, but from clumsy parents as well.  Don’t even ask me about our front yard.

On Sunday afternoon, my dear husband (I mean it) and I set to cleaning the spaces of our house that we open to guests.  Most of it was fairly simple.  Picking up toys and dusting was all that was really necessary.  The kitchen, however, was the main target.  Like most, we don’t have adequate storage space, and so a number of assorted items became part of the décor.  The 25 pound bag of bread flour sat next to the food processor with the box of measuring spoons and cups sitting on top of it.  The microwave had become a repository of our children’s art work and newsletters brought home from school.  We had put lots of things on top of the refrigerator, many had been long forgotten.  In addition, we had to deal with the layer of muck that simply appears over time on any surface around which cooking takes place.

While it was nice to envision a clean kitchen, doing this work caused me to reflect on the tendency many of us have toward perfectionism.  Perfectionism is often seen as a problem, and rightly so.  Far too frequently, the good becomes victim to the great.  We place our expectations so high that we defeat our own purpose as we try to reach them.

The Bible doesn’t help us much.  It speaks of perfection in words that we have struggled with for 2,000 years.  Very simply, we are called to be perfect.  Thanks a lot.  How can we be perfect when we know that . . . well . . . we can’t?  Scripture tells us that too.  We will sin and we will fall short, no matter how clean our kitchen.

John Wesley can help us out, however.  He interpreted our scriptural call to perfection as meaning perfected in love. 

The perfection I teach is perfect love; loving God with all the heart . . . That we are to expect it, not at death, but every moment . . . - Wesley's Works, Vol. VI, p. 500

This last part is the hardest.  Perfection is not only for the next life.  We are to seek it in this one.  As a United Methodist minister, I have to vocally assent to this goal with the aim of actually achieving it on this side of the grave.  Most of you will know that I’m not quite there yet.

Even so, this is a worthy goal and one we shouldn’t shy away from.  Nor should we excuse ourselves simply on the grounds of its impossibility.  The central tenet of the Christian faith and the primary descriptor of our God is “love.”  It is our first call, though also the one we Christians have the hardest time living into reality.  Give me rules!  These I can follow and check of my list.  Give me strict guidelines with specific measures that tell me if I am right or wrong (or if my neighbors are).  But ask me to live daily the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ that requires me to work constantly for the good of others as much as for my own, and that extends even to people who hate me?  Now, that’s a tall order.

But this is what we should expect if we are either courageous or impetuous enough to take on the title of Christian.  If we take it seriously, it is hard work.  Spending a life in a continual reach for perfection even – and maybe especially – if we know we will never fully reach it, is the kind of outrageous thing our faith asks of us.  Yes, it will take our greatest effort.  But why should we give our God any less?

Working toward personal “perfection in love” is much like scrubbing our kitchen literally from top to bottom.  We clean up the forgotten coffee spill on the cabinet.  We wipe away the goo that gathers invisibly over the stove.  The smudges we don’t see at a glance are probably the most important ones to tackle.  Why should we clean what may not be seen?  Because the most important Guest of all is coming not to visit, but to stay.

By the time my guests arrived, the house sparkled.  My kitchen was probably cleaner than it had been since we moved in.  And while I’m certain my friends would have been far too kind to mention it, I imagine they appreciated the crumbs swept away and the smudgy fingerprints wiped from the walls.

As I was clearing away the dishes after a marvelous lunch, I found one more smudge on a low cabinet door.  I wiped it off.  They will never be all gone, but I’ll keep scrubbing.

Blessed eating!

Grape Salad
4 lb. seedless grapes      8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. sour cream             1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. white sugar           2 T. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
Wash grapes and dry.  Mix cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla and sugars.  Add grapes.  Pour into serving dish and top with chopped pecans.  Refrigerate until serving time. (I use fat free cream cheese and sour cream in this recipe.) – Diane Taylor

Pepsi Pot Roast*
3-lb. pot roast                   
2 16 oz. bottles diet cola
2  10¾ oz cans fat free, low sodium cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope dry onion soup mixes
* (uses 5- or 6-qt slow cooker)
Place meat in slow cooker.  In large vowl, mix together mushroom soup, dry onion soup mix & cola.  Pour over roast in cooker.  Cover.  Cook on high 6 hours.
Note: My friend, Patti, cut everything in half, but still cooked it for almost 6 hours, turning the heat down once it began to boil. – Marilyn Johnson

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.  Mark 2:18-20

On Sunday, I made Gena’s Cinnamon Rolls.  These are decadent things that I had originally scheduled to make on Saturday.  Then I realized, with a smack to the forehead, that it would conflict with my Lenten fast.  So Sunday it was.

The recipe is long and does take some time, but the results are well worth it.  I got up early on Sunday morning to make them for the family and still get to church on time.  They were wonderful and sweet and a perfect Sunday morning celebration.  The fact that a few have lasted past Sunday to be a temptation during the week just reminds me of the Lenten fast.  During this time, we are supposed to want what we can’t have, what we have decided to deny ourselves, including cinnamon rolls.

Some may ask why I am having sweets at all if I have given them up for the season of Lent.  Well, it goes like this:  Lent is the 40 Days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Now, if you were to count those days, you would quickly see that their number does not equal 40.  This is because the Sundays during the season are not considered an actual part of Lent.  Here is why.  Christians celebrate and worship primarily on Sunday because on this day, Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty and Resurrection became part of our story.  All Sundays are therefore “Little Easters,” days that we celebrate the reality that Jesus is not dead, but has risen.  These are days for feasting, not fasting.  So it is not only permissible to stop your fast for the day – that is, it isn’t cheating – it is essential.  Sundays are days for celebration.

(I had a conversation about this recently with a clergy friend.  She wrote about it on her blog, and was generous enough to paint me as the kind of holy, Sabbath practicing person I wish I could be.  Shannon, in case I never told you before, I have always thought of you as a cross between Julian of Norwich and Joan of Arc.) 

Life is not always sweet.  I was reflecting on this a few weeks ago when my daughter asked me for ice cream for breakfast.  I truly wish I could give her nothing but sweets.  I wish for her to have nothing in life other than what she can relish and revel in.  If I were to give her that, however, it would not lead her toward a happier life.  In fact, it would likely do the opposite.  It certainly wouldn’t help her to enjoy the benefits of health and discipline.  Life isn’t meant to be all sweet.

Still, there are times in which sweets are appropriate.  We have plenty to celebrate in our world.  God has graced us well beyond the simple meeting of our needs.  The abundance we enjoy comes from the hand of an extravagant God who calls us through our scripture to rejoice!  Even during the serious season of Lent, we are called to remember all the reasons God gives us for delight.

Does this mean that busting down the doughnut shop door on Sunday morning is actually a holy act?  Maybe not.  But it is too easily forgotten that our faith is something to be celebrated.  Though Sunday worship is possibly a solemn, sometimes even somber event, it is still at heart a party.  Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation are great and happy realities, and if we can’t say “Yippee!” about it on Sunday, when can we?

So I wish you an austere and introspective Lent, and a festive, decadent and worshipful Sunday!

Blessed eating!

Gena’s Cinnamon Rolls
Melt in saucepan:  2/3 c. margarine, 1 c. water, 1 c. milk, 1 t.  salt (till really warm – can still hold your finger in it but is almost hot).

In Mixing Bowl:  1 c. plain flour, 2/3 c. sugar, 1 package yeast (or 1 T. yeast).  Add melted margarine/milk mixture once it gets really warm.  Blend till smooth (wait a few minutes to see if yeast is bubbly then you’ll know it’s good).  Add a cup of flour at a time (up to 8 cups total) until you need to put the bread hook on.  May add in 1 egg at a time (2 eggs total) but the rolls turn out fine w/out eggs . . . just makes them richer.  I spray Pam on the sides of the mixing bowl while the dough is still in the bowl and scooch the dough around and spray it underneath the dough too so it can rise in the bowl you mixed it in.  Cover it with a towel or whatever and put in a warm spot until at least double then punch down and turn out on a floured surface.

On the Counter:  Knead in a little more flour or turn it over in flour so it’s not sticky when you roll it out into a 16x20 rectangle (or circle . . . like you can roll it into a “rectangle”).  Spread some soft butter onto the dough until it’s evenly covered.

In a Small bowl with lid:  Mix 1 ½ c. sugar and 3 T. cinnamon.  Sprinkle over buttered dough.  (can put nuts on at this point . . . but why would you want to?)

On the Counter:  Roll up dough in a jelly roll and seal the edges with water . . . dip your fingers in water and pat the roll to make it moist and press together to make a seal.  Use dental floss or thread to cut into 12-14 pieces.

Coat 13x9 (or larger) pan:  with ½ c. melted margarine and sprinkle with ¼ c. sugar.  Put rolls in pan with sides touching or close.  Let rise till doubled or until you can’t take it anymore and you have to bake them . . . about 20 min. to 45 min.

Bake: in 350 degrees x 20-30 min.  I just check them after 20 min. and if they’re done in the middle of the middle cinnamon roll then yeah!  They’re done.

Frosting:  Mix 2 c. powdered sugar, 1/3 c. melted margarine.  1-2 t. vanilla until forms a thick paste (I don’t follow a recipe so this might have to be adjusted with more or less liquid and/or powdered sugar . . . can use a smidge of milk to thin it).  Spread on warm rolls.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and Blue Pancakes

"Therefore I . . . repent in dust and ashes"   Job 42:6

It is Mardi Gras as I write this.  A quiet one.  The kids are asleep and I am hard at work on my computer.  No parades or balls here, though we did celebrate in our own way.   But as you are reading it, the day is probably Ash Wednesday.

I try to take seriously both the feast and the fasting occasions of the church and so my children and I celebrated Mardi Gras together this evening.  Today after a last stop at the doughnut shop – guess what I’m giving up for Lent – we made a pancake supper.  I was glad to be able to use the occasion as a cookbook project meal.  I had already decided to use this recipe from the Bass Family Cookbook, when I realized it was a perfect fit for the day.  (Here is how I know I belong in this family.  Blueberry pancakes are in the Main Dish section.  Oh Happy Day!)

Today was very hectic.  Todd was called in to work at the last minute, giving me little time to prepare.  Along with the blueberry pancakes, I made the Hashbrown Casserole.  As I stopped by the store with the kids on my way home, I simply had to guess at the ingredients.  Needless to say, I ended up substituting a lot.  In the end, it didn’t matter.  I enjoyed the casserole, and neither child would try it.  Fortunately, they weren’t frightened off by their blue pancakes.  After thawing the blueberries, I added them to the pancake batter along with their “juice.”  The result was the artistic creation you see above.  Not bad for Mardi Gras.

As we ate, I tried to explain to my kids the meaning of the Mardi Gras, though they were far more interested in their pancakes than my lesson in church tradition.  This holiday, also called Fat Tuesday (the English translation), doesn't exist by itself.  The celebration is the last hoorah before the long and serious season of Lent.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, tomorrow.  Ashes have traditionally been a sign of mortality and humility.  Once worn in mourning, they are a symbol of repentance and sorrow.  In modern times, Christians wear ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday as a sign of our faith and our commitment to the Christian life.  Many Christians will receive the ashes in the morning to wear them throughout the day.  It becomes a discipline for ourselves and a witness for others to a life that is centered on something greater than what we can see.  With this sign of our devotion, we begin our Lenten journey.

Lent can be a hard sell. We pastors tread around it lightly.  The season of Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, not including the Sundays along the way.  It is a special time, but not a frivolous one.  Lent is a somber season of fasting, repentance, prayer and simplicity.  We are called to set aside extravagances and spend our time reflecting solemnly on our lives, our mortality.  Not blatantly cheerful stuff and not always high in public appeal.

In many traditions, the faithful will give up something for Lent.  This is a modern form of fasting in a time when we are less likely to renounce our meals.  The thing that is relinquished is supposed to be something important that will be missed.  As we miss it we pray; we remember our frail and imperfect state, and we work to grow closer to God.

Lent isn’t so bad, if even if it is something of an acquired taste.  While it may seem like a downer when looked at from the outside, there is more to it than meets the eye.  It offers a wonderful opportunity for an inward focus that is sorely missed in our normal frenzied lives.  It gives us the chance to slow down and examine what really matters.  For many Christians, it gives meaning to the last weeks of winter before we experience the joy of spring.  And there is joy at the end, when Easter reminds us that new life is always possible, in every season.

May you celebrate (in every sense of the word) the season of Lent.  I pray that these weeks are filled with prayer and reflection so that you may better know the God who gives us life.

Blessed eating!

Blueberry Pancakes
1 egg                                  1 c. flour
¾ cup milk                         1 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil              1 T baking powder
½ c. fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
Beat egg until fluffy; beat in remaining ingredients except blueberries just until smooth.  Stir in blueberries.  Grease heated griddle.  For each pancake, pour about 3 tablespoons of batter from a large spoon or from pitcher onto hot griddle.  Cook pancakes until puffed and dry around edges.  Turn and cook other side until golden brown. – Lisa Wade

Hashbrown Casserole
1 bag froz shred hashbrowns (2 lbs)  1 carton sour cream (8-16 oz)
1 can cream chicken soup                    1 ½ c. chopped onion
1 can cream mushroom soup              1 c. grated cheddar (I use 2 cups)
1 c. chicken broth (make w/water and bullion)  
2 c. Ritz crackers or corn flakes, crushed
Defrost potatoes.  Combine all ingredients (except crackers/corn flakes) ina greased casserole dish.  Cover w/crushed crackers or corn flakes.  Can drizzle the top w/melted butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. – Gena Jernigan

Note:  What DIDN’T I substitute?  I had neither the cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup.  So I made more chicken broth and added some milk and some flour to thicken.  I also used all the cheddar cheese I could get my hands on.  I didn’t have either Ritz crackers or corn flakes, and found that Special K worked just fine.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On Principle

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2

On Sunday, I cooked Fall Potato Soup and Fried Squash Bread.  I am hoping by next fall, I’ll be on to another cookbook, so with the weather turning cold again, this seemed my last best opportunity.  Somehow the soup seemed to call for nutmeg, so I added it.  It worked.  The kids enjoyed the squash bread, not knowing that it contained vegetables that cause even their mother to shudder.  I will confess that since they are not yet engaged in the discipline of eating whatever I give them, I also made hot dogs.  All in all, it was a very enjoyable meal.

I don’t usually cook on Sunday.  I’m not necessarily observing the Sabbath, but my usual cooking days are Monday and Thursday.  But my schedule is becoming increasingly unpredictable.  Sunday’s meal was meant to be last Thursday, then Friday, then later still as I collapsed in the evenings from sheer exhaustion and shamefacedly relied on the mac and cheese backup.  Thus, Sunday became our family dinner.

I don’t mind cooking on Sunday.  As clergy, I never expect Sundays to be my Sabbath, my day of rest.  While we are expected to honor the Sabbath, it is left up to us to make arrangements for another day.  I believe there was a time in a bygone era when Sunday dinners consisted of cold leftovers because the Sabbath commandment was taken to include food preparation along with a host of other things.  I didn’t grow up in this era.  Our Sunday lunches were always nice hot meals prepared for our post church celebration. 

Sabbath is a problematic discipline for most of us.  I’m always surprised to hear people wistfully harken back to the old days when stores and movie theaters were closed on the Lord’s Day.  Anyone listening would think that we wanted it to be that way again, but most of us happily patronize whatever businesses are open.  I myself have made Sunday morning dashes for communion grape juice or coffee hour refreshments, so I appreciate the store being open.  But it certainly calls us to think about the principles we claim and our willingness to uphold them for ourselves.

Upholding our own principles has been on my mind lately, particularly as two news stories have caught my attention.  The first one, you probably heard about.  A star football player at Brigham Young University was recently suspended from the team because he confessed to having a physical relationship with his girlfriend.  At just about any other school, this behavior would hardly have raised an eyebrow.  At BYU, however, his actions were in violation of the honor code which meant suspension from the team.  Recently ranked third in the nation, BYU has since lost to an unranked team and expectations are low for the rest of the season.

In Iowa, history was recently made at the state wrestling championship – which is held by locals to be as important as the Super Bowl or World Series – when two girls qualified for the tournament, a first in the 85 years of competition.  In the first round, Freshman Cassy Herkelman won by default when her opponent, Joel Northrup, chose not to compete.  His decision was based on his religious beliefs.  “As a matter of conscience and my faith,” Northrup said, “I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner.”  Both he and Herkelman lost in subsequent rounds, eliminating them from competition.

These stories offer a lot of food for thought, and they raise complicated questions, but both have left a deep impression on me.  Whether or not I understand or agree with the belief systems involved – I don’t fully know Northrup’s beliefs about women which drove his decision; whether or not I would take on these principles as my own – BYU’s honor code also bans coffee which would leave me suspended on the first day of class – I am deeply impressed by the willingness of both parties to hold unwaveringly to their principles even when it means making a considerable sacrifice.

BYU has likely lost the successful season they hoped for.  Joel Northrup has given up at least one year’s dream of being a champion.  In our sports-obsessed culture, these are extreme sacrifices (the appropriateness of this reality is a blog post for another day).  I profoundly appreciate the example they set.

As a pastor, I watch as parents take their children out of church for sporting events held on Sunday.  I see practice schedules written in blood on the calendar – even for young children – with all other activities moved aside to accommodate the higher priority.  I have wanted to ask parents if they really thought that basketball – or soccer, or whatever the season is – would sustain their children throughout their lives, help them to make tough decision and endure hard times.  Will strict adherence to practice schedules teach their children why they are here on the planet, or why they matter at all?  I am dying to ask these things, but I don’t – in part because I’m afraid these parents will leave angry, to look for a church that is less guilt-trippy.  Maybe I should check my own principles, and my willingness to sacrifice for them.

We have come to believe that faith shouldn’t cost us anything.  We can have our communion cake and eat it too.  To some degree, this is true.  The grace through which we are saved remains available whether or not we cherish it.  But there is also a loss which we suffer when we hold it at arm’s length, when Jesus becomes the neglected relative that we’ve been meaning to visit, but we never quite get around to it.  Faith – while free – is very costly.  If we are not sacrificing for it, we have to ask ourselves if we are really living it.

The season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday, is a good time to take a hard look at our lives, our faith, ourselves.  In fact, this is exactly what the season is for.  If you don’t know what Lent is, I’m going to post about it on Wednesday.  For now, suffice it to say that Lent is the season in which we are called to think about the less fun topics of sin and sacrifice.  It is not the giddiest time of year, but it’s an important one.  Its object is the life that we gain when we put our sin into focus and repent, change, find better ways to live. 

May you remember what is most important and live it.

Blessed eating!

Fall Potato Soup
10-12 small new potatoes, or 4-5 med.   1 carrot, grated
1 rib celery, finely chopped                         1 med. onion finely chopped
2 T. margarine                                               1 T. bacon grease
1 t. flour                                                          1 14 oz. can chicken broth
1 c. milk                                                           salt and pepper to taste
Steam potatoes until very tender.  Peel and cut into bite sized pieces.  When cool, sauté carrot, onion and celery in the margarine until crisp tender.  Stir in the flour and bacon grease.  Pour in chicken broth and milk and stir until smooth.  Add potatoes and stir until mixture is lump free.  Heat until ready to boil, but not boiling.  Serve topped with grated cheddar cheese and chopped green onion. – Megan Mims

Fried Squash Bread
1 pt. squash (preferably yellow)              1 med. onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten                                             1 handful plain flour
2 handfuls cornmeal                                  salt & pepper to taste
Water                                                             garlic powder to taste
Stew squash and chopped onions in water; Mash well and drain.  Stir in beaten eggs.  Add salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Stir in flour and cornmeal.  Add enough warm water for desired consistency.  Mix thoroughly.  Drop by heaping tablespoonsful into hot grease.  Fry until golden. – Learvene T. Bass

Note:  I don’t know how much a handful is, but I’m pretty sure I used a lot more of both cornmeal and flour.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?                  Matthew 16:26

Usually when I write my blog post, the topic has come up from some reflection or thought that has emerged while cooking or eating of the meal of the day.  This one came from a long progression of ideas that came from many different sources.

For our meal, we ate Juevos Rancheros Casserole and Water Gate Salad.  Water Gate Salad isn’t a green salad in the traditional understanding.  It is green in the pistachio pudding sense.  My children enjoyed it.  Maybe too much.  When my daughter requested seconds, she asked for “ice cream.”  Blessed, I suppose, is the child who gets ice cream for supper.  The salad does have fruit and nuts in it, both healthy.  I added some apple for good measure.  But the pudding and the Cool Whip might equalize or negate the good.  Who can say? 

In this lovely week, I have also been reflecting on our early – and joyously welcome – spring.  The weather has been warm, the trees budding, and I have been thinking about the things in life, in the world, that we need to keep ourselves going.  Lunch and coffee with friends this week – as we shared with each other our celebrations and struggles – made me think about how friendship may well be one of those things we need.

But the core of my reflection came down to this:   I’m not really all that sure that we know what we need.  If I were to ask my daughter, she would likely say “ice cream.”  The truth is that most of us have a rather distorted notion of what we actually require for our well-being.

I have recently become hooked on a new TV program.  I am fascinated by the show “Heavy” on A&E.  I find the plot riveting, even though it is the same every week.  People who are dangerously obese take on a drastic and excruciating program of exercise and diet to try to make a change.  They are, so far, always successful.  The program has not yet shown a failure.  I am drawn in to their anguish and their joy at overcoming both the physical and the emotional challenges of returning to a normal and healthy weight.

In watching this show, I began to think about how too much of a good thing really can be terrible for us.  The opportunity itself can be more than many of us can bear.  Our scripture tells us that “God . . . will not let you be tested beyond your strength” (1 Cor 10:13).  That does not, however, mean that the bakery won’t, or the jewelers, or whatever store does commerce in your particular area of weakness.

And I’m not so sure we are as up on the notion of discipline as we ought to be.  As a mom, I think about the subject of discipline all the time.  I carry toys in my car for the kids to play with when I drive them places.  Invariably, they want to keep them when it’s time to get out of the car.  Do I let them take the toys, then take the trouble to replace them myself, all so they can have toys when they want them with no effort of their own?  Or do I make them leave the toys in the car while they take the 20 steps to the house where there are thousands more toys?  The answer seems obvious.  I should do what grows character and discipline in them.  But that is easier said than prying an airplane out of my son’s hand.

If you are reading this, you are not likely tempted by a toy airplane.  But you are tempted.  Most of the things that entice us as adults are available through others who will profit from providing it.  It is no surprise, then, that rarely will they, or anyone in our adult lives, point us in the direction of self-control.  Few, other than ourselves, will benefit from it.  So we are left with little to no encouragement to do the things we ought to do; to limit ourselves, to be disciplined.  And in our country, we have nothing but opportunity.  Nothing but abundance around us.  Nothing to stop us from throwing discipline to the wind.

So right this moment, I would like to encourage you to be disciplined.  Whether your need for restraint is in regards to food, to shopping, to TV time, or to grown up versions of the toys that my kids play with, make the choice to stop short of giving yourself everything you want.  Instead, think about what you really need, compare it to what you have, then decide to make do with less for the sake of your own character and soul. 

Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
Luke 12:16-21

In his parable, Jesus pointed to the small value that things actually bring to us in the long run.  And beyond simply being unnecessary, too much of anything can actually hurt us in the end.  It isn’t called The Parable of the Rich Fool for nothing. 

Perhaps this is why friendship is a true need.  Who else can help us to draw the lines that we would rather not draw between needs and wants, healthy and unhealthy?

So while I will serve my kids Water Gate Salad – the leftovers have gone to school in lunch boxes – neither it nor ice cream will be a staple on my kids’ dinner plate, or mine.  May we all find a different way to live richly and well.

Blessed eating!

Water Gate Salad
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple
1 (3 ¾ oz) pkg. Instant pistachio pudding
1 (9 oz) pkg. Cool Whip, thawed
1 c. miniature marshmallows
½ chopped pecans or walnuts
Drain pineapple, reserving juice.  Mix pineapple juice with pudding mix.  Mix in whipped topping.  Fold in marshmallows, pineapple and nuts.  Mix well.  Pour into 9x13 in pan.  Chill overnight.  Cut into squares to serve. – Greg Wade

Note:  In a nod toward healthier eating, I substituted chopped apple for marshmallows.  It was still very good.

Juevos Rancheros Casserole
8 eggs                                   1 c. salsa
1 c. sr. cream                      A pack 4 Mexican cheese
Place salsa in a pie plate.  Sprinkle cheese over salsa.  Blend eggs and sr. cream.  Pour over the top of the cheese.  Bake at 375o until center is not wet. – Kyle Lewis

Note:  Though there is protein in the cheese, I added a little bit of chicken to this recipe.