Friday, May 27, 2011


The Lite and Luscious that I made for dessert recently is not “lite” in the traditional sense.  Now, I’m not complaining.  It was delicious.  The final result is sort of like an orange meringue pie, with the Cool Whip serving in the place of the beaten egg whites.  Still, if I had to name it I would call it heavy and luscious or maybe rich and luscious.  Its title seems to fall into place with a culture that is taken with thinness, so much so that “lite” is considered to be an unquestionably good description.

But light doesn’t have to refer to a number of calories or the digits we see when we stand on the scale.  While health concerns do plague us in our time, being light has been on my mind in more ways than just what can be expressed in pounds.  What I am thinking of has to do with another common metaphor we use, that of “baggage.”  While many of us carry excess bulk on our bodies, we may well carry far more weight in our hearts.

The heaviness that we carry may come from memories and past experience.  Though invisible, they can drag us down more than a garment bag filled with marbles.  We are shaped by these experiences.  If we are forced to bend double with the weight, we may find it hard to straighten back up again.

It would be nice to set our memories down like a suitcase.   We could walk away from them and they wouldn’t follow us.  The choice, once made, would be final.  But memories are not so easy.  They have legs and can catch up to us from great distances.  Leaving them behind is much harder and takes a lot more work.

So in order to heal from past sadness or wounds, ongoing effort is required.  Each morning, we choose to look ahead rather than behind.  Each hour, we decide to forgive.  We cry when we need to.  We grieve what is lost.  When we feel our chest tighten up, or our hands inexplicably making fists, then we take a deep breath and turn our attention to the sunlight that we feel here and now.

It is much better to travel light.  To move through the world with eyes and hearts open completely to experience the world in the present moment.  Better this than being weighed down, with our attention continually pulled back to what can no longer be changed.  There is too much light in the world not to enjoy it.

Blessed eating!

Lite and Luscious

1 ¼ c. plain flour                                                           ¼ t. salt
1 sm pkg. coconut cream instant pudding             ½ c. Crisco
2 T. soft margarine                                                     1 egg
Mix above ingredients until moist.  Press into 12” pizza pan.  Bake 15 minutes at 350o. 

6 oz. sr. cream                   1 can Eagle Brand milk
½ c. Tang orange drink mix (save ¼ g. for top)
Mix above until blended.  Spread on cooled crust.

Spread 8 oz. Cool Whip on above.  Place 1 can mandarin orange slices on top and sprinkle with ¼ t. reserved Tang. – Ann Bass

Monday, May 23, 2011


You visit the earth and water it,
   you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
   you provide the people with grain,
   for so you have prepared it.
                                      Psalm 65:9

It is a well-known fact that God has sense of humor.  In fact, it is showing up in green on my deck.  It has taken the form of some yummy Bibb Butterhead Lettuce.  I tried to grow this lettuce last summer and my harvest was half of a salad to split between me and my husband.

This year, I learned better.  Having discovered that lettuce is a cool weather plant, I stuck the seeds in the dirt during the cold of early March.  My planting ritual was no more than that.  I did no preparation of the soil.  My planting involved no more than poking a finger in the potting mix, dropping in seed, then running back into the warm house.  My care of the plants has been negligible. 

My lavish harvest mocks me.

I have worked much harder with the tomatoes, herbs and all the other plants that I hope will one day be dinner.  I have been careful to mix the right things into the soil, to note the light requirements, to water at the proper times.  I have treated my new transplants as gingerly as you could possibly imagine.  The results to date have been mixed and are mostly yet unknown.  But my amazing crop of lettuce – grown from seed practically thrown into a bucket, then ignored – would seem to ridicule my effort, except for the one word God whispers in my ear.  “Grace.”

We unknowingly live in a world of grace.  In spite of the many ways we can hurt and be hurt, we are granted an abundance of the things we really need:  air, sunlight, soil, and people around us to help bring in the harvest.  Most of these things we couldn’t do for ourselves no matter how hard we tried.  Still we continue to act as though we were self-made, insisting that the fruits we enjoy must be of our own labors.  I believe God would beg to differ.

Whether we recognize it or not, we are a people who are saved and who live by grace.  If we work a lot or only a little, our very existence depends on the benevolent Sustainer who has created a world that will feed us.  We are called to give our best effort, but our work alone will not guarantee our sustenance.  Our task is not, however, to work less hard but to accept with gratitude that our God has given us the tools that we start with.

We experience grace in both our wildest successes and our worst failed efforts.  And every now and again, God will completely surprise us with undeserved riches.  My riches even came in green, though not the usual kind:  thick succulent lettuce leaves.  This is grace.  I’ll take it any day.

I haven’t used recipes when I’ve eaten my lettuce, so I’ll include a yummy soup recipe that I ate along with a salad.  Enjoy.

Blessed eating!

Chicken Enchilada Bisque
2 quarts water                   1 ¼ c. corn meal
1 large onion, chopped    1-2 lbs. chicken, shredded
1 t. ground cumin             1 t. chili powder
1 t. garlic powder             1 can chopped green chilies
2 c. sr. cream
Spray 4 qt. pot with oil.  Add water and corn meal.  Stir until all lumps dissolve.  Bring to a boil.  When mixture starts to bubble, continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add chopped onion, chicken, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and chilies; let mixture simmer on low, stirring occasionally.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add sr. cream just before serving.  Cook, stirring occasionally until heated through.  Makes 6-8 servings. – Diane Taylor

Saturday, May 14, 2011


At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’   Luke 14:17

I thought I had started supper on time.  I wasn’t very late in the afternoon.  Plenty of time, I thought, for the Baked Macaroni and Cheese and the Bacon Wraps I was making for dinner.  I was wrong.  For reasons I still don’t understand, it took me way longer to prepare this meal than I had expected.  Not because the recipes are difficult.  Just . . . because.  When we finally sat down around the table, it was a half hour past the kid’s bedtime.

One of the lessons I am learning from my cookbook project is that preparing meals this way – that is, actually putting ingredients together and cooking them – just takes time.  Now if I were good at it, and if I had some practice and experience under my belt, maybe I could go faster.  But the fact remains that cooking “long hand,” preparing dishes from something close to raw ingredients will just take longer than opening a box and microwaving.  Though I still don’t want to eat them, I now see the allure of frozen pizzas.

Cooking meals from scratch is generally acknowledged to be better for us on a number of levels; nutritional, spiritual and familial to name a few.  So why do we choose the cardboard over the cutting board?  We’re not afraid of the labor.  Cost differences are usually favorable or at least negligible.  Time is the commodity on which we hope to save.

Time seems so fleeting.  There never seems to be enough.  We feel like we have too little time to do all the things we want to do, so we cook less.  “Less time in the kitchen” is a phrase that is supposed to mean something good and is often used to advertise appliances or food products.

Prepared foods are one of the many things that help maintain the illusion that we really can do it all.  Our kids can play every sport.  We can work 60 hours a week.  We can volunteer for every church or school project that comes up.  We want to imagine ourselves invincible, omnipotent.  But we’re not either of these things.  We can’t do it all.  We do have to choose and we need to choose well.

Our choices must be made carefully because, whether we realize it or not, they become our life’s priorities.  I know how stressed parents feel, trying to get their kids connected with all the best opportunities from the myriad that are available.  But I have wanted to ask them if the opportunity to kick a ball or play an instrument is really more beneficial than looking you in the eye across the dinner table.  Can an activity, however valuable, draw them closer to their life’s meaning than learning about the presence of God from a mother or father who is willing to simply sit still with them?

Opportunity is not always our friend.  With many wonderful possibilities presented to us, we can forget that the best choice may be to simply say “no.”  Let some chances go and cherish what the time brings you.  Spend some of it in the kitchen, at the table with those you care about most.

Blessed eating!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
16 oz. package macaroni (4 cups dry) Hard to find so I use elbows
2-3 lbs Velveeta cheese cut in cubes                     2-3 cans evaporated milk
1 ½ sticks butter (use some to butter pan)           4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook macaroni as directed and drain.  Add butter, next add eggs, then add milk to be very soupy mixture.  Place in 9x12 pan.  Put and mix in cheese (use some cheese on top, not mixed into mixture) and salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 until top gets crispy. – Adele Johnson

Bacon Wraps
Package of sliced bacon                two cans of Prestige long green beans
½ stick of butter (melted)            ½ cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Cut bacon strips in half.  Wrap a strip of bacon around six beans.  Line in a baking dish until bottom is covered.  Mix melted butter, brown sugar, and garlic powder.  Stir and pour mixture over beans and bacon.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes.  (Bake to desired crispness of bacon.) – Jan Kinsaul

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Our Daily Bread

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’   Matthew 22:34-40

I was coming home to Georgia from my parent’s house in Alabama when I got my first real glimpse of tornado destruction.  In Rainsville, Alabama – just north of Fort Payne – the twister had left clear marks where it had touched down.   Shattered buildings would lie next to standing ones.  Rooms were laid open, the remaining half looking for all the world as if someone could still live there and walk in at any moment.  One lovely house was spared, though a large tree lay uprooted, parallel to the front door and only a few feet away.  Other houses were not so fortunate.  The tornado had bobbed along taking some property, leaving others.  I got a first-hand view of the destruction of such storms, as well as their caprice. 

Tornadoes, along with all the storms that we encounter, raise questions for Christians.  How can such things happen?  Why do they happen?  How can we live with God in the face of such uncertainty?  We can answer these questions easily as we sit comfortably within four standing walls.  But when our lives are thrown horribly out of whack, the questions become far more vivid and real.  They are in our face and in our mouths, and we demand answers.  We Christians rail against the uncertainty we must live with, and the chance of which we are victim.

But live with it we must.  No amount of theology will change it.  We can only take action in response.  We can remain who we are called to be, whether circumstances are favorable or not.  In the North Georgia Conference (of the United Methodist Church), efforts are organized and ongoing to match volunteers and donations with the needs that exist.  Offerings are being taken, teams and individuals are drawing together to give what they can of their time and energy.  If you are interested in donating or volunteering, you can learn more by clicking here.

Our scripture plainly tells us that this is who we are.  This is our daily bread:  to uphold one another.  To comfort and look out for one another.  To make sure everyone has enough. 

I thought of this as I made bread for my mom and dad.  I had been visiting with them before my eye-opening drive through the wreckage.  They were dealing with their own injuries and surgeries, and I was there to lend a hand.  The bread came from our family cookbook.  It is a delicious recipe, but the crust was very hard when I made it.  I didn’t have a mixer, but did it by hand which may well have had an effect on the texture.  We ate it with both potato soup and butternut squash and carrot soup.  A very good meal.

May you both receive and offer bread this day.  In the breaking of bread, may you see the living Christ.

Bread Dough
2 T. yeast                                             2 c. hot tap water
1 t. sugar                                              1 T. salt
5-6 c. plain (unbleached) flour    fat, opt*

*You can add a stick of margarine or some oil, but I usually don’t add any at all.  You will need more flour then. 

All the measurements are approximate.  The yeast equals about 2 packages.  I think.  I get mine from Sam’s in one pound bags.  Put yeast, sugar, and salt in the bottom of a mixer bowl.  Add the hot tap water.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  If it begins to look foamy it is good yeast.  Add 4 cups of flour and using the dough hooks mix on low until flour is just mixed.  Scrape flour off the sides with a spatula.  You can then turn the mixer up to medium to better mix the dough.  Turn it down when dough is well mixed and add more flour a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add flour and mix until you can just touch the dough and it doesn’t stick much to your fingers.  Remove bowl.  Spray top with oil and place in a warm area.  Cover with plastic wrap to keep the top from getting crusty, although this won’t hurt it.  Let it rise for an hour or two, punch the dough down if it gets too high.  I use this for making pizza, or flatbread, and sometimes I roll it out and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top, then roll it up like a jelly roll to make a cinnamon bread loaf.  Let rise the finished product until double.  Bake at 350o until brown. 

Flat bread:  Divide dough into four or five sections.  On a floured surface roll each piece of dough out thin until it just fits inside a large cookie sheet.  Place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with oil.  Top with thin slices of tomato, shredded basil leaves (or 1 ½ t. dried basil), thin slivers of onion, and top with shredded Parmesan.  Bake at 350o (more or less) until is brown and crisp.  Break into pieces and serve warm.  Instead of tomato and basil, spread Vidalia onion vinaigrette on top then add thin slivers of onion and some Parmesan.  This makes a neat bread to serve instead of rolls or biscuits. – Diane Taylor