Friday, July 13, 2012


 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Genesis 8:22

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently made a trip to the State Farmer’s Market to spend my hard earned writing cash and to buy the ingredients for my summer salsa project.  We drove to the south side of the city, pulled our van up to stall after stall, buying first a big box of Roma tomatoes, a large basket of peaches (not salsa related) a big bag of onions and a bunch of green chiles.           

The chiles made the most unfamiliar purchase.  I am not a hot eater.  When I buy salsa in the grocery store, I decidedly go for the jars with “mild” printed in clear letters.  So when it comes to buying anything in the pepper or chile family – beyond bell peppers – I am in new territory. 

As I arrived at the stall to buy the chiles, I asked the man there what I needed to use.  I diligently showed him my recipe, and also indicated that I had small children and wanted to steer clear of anything too hot.  He smiled kindly, indicated that he understood and pointed to what I needed.  I said my recipe indicated the need for four cups.  He gathered a large number of chiles between his hands, put it in a bag and handed it to me.  He seemed nice.

On my way home, I bought the rest of the supplies I needed: additional pint jars, some garlic and gloves for handling the chiles.  My recipe and instruction book – that I mentioned in my last post – is So Easy to Preserve, offered by the Cooperative Extension of The University of Georgia.  The book encouraged me to use gloves when handling the chiles.  I needed no encouragement.

The chiles were among the first thing I prepared, leaving my kind husband to blanch and peel the tomatoes.  I blistered the chiles in the oven according to instruction, then began to peel them.  They did not peel easily.  I wasn’t sure if I didn’t blister them correctly, or if maybe it was supposed to be that hard, but the skin did not come off well.  I would often lose a significant amount of the pepper itself when I tried.  Add to this the fact that it was taking an insanely long amount of time.  Most of all, the gloves got in the way.  It was almost impossible to peel off the minute pieces of chile skin with the gloves on.

So I took them off.

It didn’t seem like a big deal.  So Easy To Preserve had instructions for just such a possibility.  It simply said that if I didn’t wear gloves, to then be sure to wash my hands carefully before touching my eyes or face.  No problem.

In the end, I had about one cup worth of the green chiles, not the four cups that the recipe called for.  I knew I had to keep the amounts the same for canning, but fortunately, I had enough bell peppers, which can substitute to make up the right quantity.  As I came to the last few chiles, my hands were beginning to get hot.  But when I was done, I washed them thoroughly.  No problem, right?

Ha!  My hands didn’t get any cooler, in fact they began to scorch.  Then they burned for hours.  Cutting acidic tomatoes didn’t help.  The onions also pleasantly made my eyes smart and water.  To top it all off, if I had to work over the open stove, the steam from the pots turned my hands to fire! 

When I got a break, I Googled something like “cut chiles hands stop hurting” (and typing wasn’t easy, believe me!) I found websites with suggestions, the main one being “wear gloves.”  Thanks.   I tried soaking my hands in a combination of milk and ice.  I put frozen things in my oven mitts.  When none of this worked for very long, I turned to drinking.  (If you’re a member of my church, you should probably skip to the end now.)  The experience brought to mind a number of words, four-letter and otherwise, that I wouldn’t want to use within the confines of anyplace holy. 

Just after midnight the canning process was complete.  My milk solution and I lay down to watch TV for a while.  Eventually, my skin calmed enough to let me go to sleep.

I have gained a lot from this experience.  I can now consider a life of crime since I probably have no fingerprints.  While I will never stop going to farmers’ markets, I might stick to stores where things are carefully labeled if I’m buying something that might do damage.   I learned, too, that like many occasions in life, things hurt more when I think about them.

I have also learned that interactions between human beings can be very tricky things.  The kind man who sold us the chiles also allowed my daughter the orange that had caught her eye.  When I asked him for a price, he just smiled and waved me away.  In giving my daughter an orange and me an evening of agony, I hardly believe he meant us harm.  Somehow, we just didn’t communicate.

We can’t dwell on the pain.  We can’t ignore it either.  We have to grieve.  We have to pay attention.  We have to actively participate in our healing.  Then we have to keep going; march ahead with the tasks at hand until suddenly we notice that the sting isn’t quite so bad as it once was.

I have since done a little more Googling to find out exactly what kind of pepper I used.  They were mostly green with some red in them which, from the pictures, could be either serranos or arbol chiles.  While I don’t think that they were the mild green chiles prescribed, it is always possible that they were and that I am just exceptionally sensitive.  Regardless, it was a learning experience.  Some of us get our education the hard way.  

I’ve sampled the salsa.  It is pretty good, but has a heck of a bite.  I can’t imagine what it would have tasted like if I had used the full four cups of the little green offenders.  I think I can still use these jars of salsa for Christmas presents.  Of course, they should probably be carefully labeled . . .

Blessed eating!

Here is a recipe from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook that is in keeping with the theme of the day.

Mexicorn Quesadillas
1 can whole kernel corn                        1 large onion, minced
1 can Ro-tel, drain well                          1 can ch. green chilies
1 bell pepper, minced, (opt.)                flour tortillas
1 or more jalapenos; seeded, minced       cheddar cheese
Mix all of the above, except the cheese and tortillas.  Place ¼- cup of veggies on a flour tortilla.  Sprinkle with 2 T. cheddar.  Top with another tortilla.  Press down.  Repeat.  Bake until the tortillas are golden.  I often take a pancake turner and flip them to insure even baking.  Cut with a pizza wheel and serve hot. – Diane Taylor

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Giving and Receiving

He gives food to every creature.  His love endures forever.  Psalm 136:25

Just a few weeks ago, I opened my mailbox and found an envelope addressed to me.  It turned out to be a check.  The Upper Room magazine was kind enough to publish a meditation I had written.  The check they sent was the first I have ever received for my writing.  I was paid $30.00, hardly sufficient to quit my day job (as if I wanted to), but enough to be thrilling. 

I thought hard about what to do with the money.  Even though it wasn’t much, its purpose needed to be something special.  I finally decided that a trip to the State Farmer’s Market was in order.  My earnings would go toward buying some fruit and veggies and for my summer project: salsa.

Each year, I try at least one new project; a new recipe or category thereof, a new cooking or preserving method.  Often my “project” will wind up with a ribbon around it, given away as a Christmas present.  Last year, I canned chutney, sweet and sour sauce, and relish from an enormous recipe.  The year before that was my cheese marathon.  While early Christmas preparation is a benefit, the point is doing something outside the familiar, stretching the boundaries.

So this year, the project is salsa.  I am a huge fan of the stuff personally and I hope to give it away.  Also, since canning was a project from last year, I can make a lot and store it.  My canning “Bible” is the book, So Easy To Preserve, offered by the Cooperative Extension of The University of Georgia.  It has taken me step by step through the canning process, even helped me with tips on freezing and drying foods.  It has lots of canning recipes, including salsas.  When I saw a tomato salsa that required 16 to 18 pint jars, I knew I had found my target.

The process of making the salsa was a humorous one to say the least.  It deserves a post of its own and in a few days you will have it.  Just know that as I type these words, seventeen jars of salsa sit on my shelf.  They are not labeled yet (and heaven knows when I’ll get around to it), but in a few months they will be on their way to good homes.

I like to plan these Christmas gifts early.  I can enjoy ahead of time the pleasure that is both given and received.  Like singing Christmas carols in July, making gifts takes the edge off the heat.  People are rarely unhappy with the presents that are edible, and it is truly a gift to feed people.

We live in a cycle of giving and receiving.  We receive from the world around us - probably much more than we know or could be grateful for – and we are recipients of God’s gift of grace which we will never deserve.  But the greatest gift of all, the best ever, is the gift of giving; the gift of preparing jars of yummy food to give in celebration of the birth of our Lord, to know that people will be nourished and reminded of the goodness of our God.  May we enjoy such gifts every day of the year.

Blessed Eating!

The meditation I wrote for the Upper Room will be printed in the November/December edition, on December 11, 2012.  I am deeply grateful for The Upper Room Magazine for their wonderful ministry and for their willingness to print my work.

Here is a recipe from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook that will be coming into season soon!

Apple Crisp (or Pear Crisp)
6 lg. Granny Smith apples             ½ c. orange juice
1 c. sugar                                         ½ t. cinnamon
¾ c. flour                                          ¼ t. salt
6 T. butter
Slice apples thin.  Place in greased 11x7 pan.  Pour orange juice over apples.  Combine ½ c. sugar and cinnamon and spread over apples.  Combine flour, ½ c. sugar and butter; mix until crumbly.  Sprinkle over apples.  Bake at 350o 45-60 minutes.

Pear Crisp
Same as above except:
Cook pears until tender with sugar and water.  Drain.  Then continue as above. – Ann Bass

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Food Traditions

I feel certain that the founding fathers ate hot dogs.  Our history books surely include images of them sweating over grills, melting cheese on patties of beef, then crowding it all onto a plate next to 18th century potato chips.  They must have had picnics on red and white checked vinyl table coverings, on top of which would sit a 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola with some Dixie cups.  I am certain that they must have had all of these things, because they are present every single year as we celebrate the birth of our nation.

It might be hard to say exactly where all of our food traditions came from; how some kinds of edibles have come to be known as particularly “American.”  No one has told me how apple pie won the title, or why franks and burgers have become the dinner of choice before the fireworks start. But I do know that I am profoundly grateful to be a part of a nation where we have such good reason to celebrate.

Over two hundred years ago, citizens of the American colonies agonized over the decision of independence.  Even before the Declaration was signed and sent out, many Americans had paid a heavy price to make a new beginning of our nation.  The blessings we have received as a result of those decisions are too many to count.  It is fitting to celebrate them with things that go boom. 

This holiday is also a time to remember that our nation is a work in progress.  The third verse of America the Beautiful – known in United Methodist circles as hymn #696 – says:

America!  America!  God mend thine every flaw.
Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

I find it a comfort, when division is so rampant in our nation, to remember that our God is still shaping us.  We are not complete but still being formed – when we allow it –into a creation of God’s design.

There are lots of things I hope will happen as we move into the future.  I hope we will calm our loud rhetoric and listen instead for the modest voice of wisdom.  I hope we see the error of our ways when it comes to food production, and that our current trend toward local and whole is not simply a passing fad.  I hope that we will see with God’s eyes the abundance in our refrigerators and build systems and cultures that allow everyone throughout the world to have enough.

Tonight at our church, we will celebrate with hotdogs, games and fireworks.  Kids will decorate their bicycles and skooters in patriotic colors.  Grownups will set up chairs and picnic blankets.  We will gather as friends, neighbors and strangers to celebrate what we and our forebears have shared for two centuries: life in a nation where we enjoy many blessings, and through which we are called to bless the world.  May we be found faithful as those who came before us.

Blessed Eating!

This was as close to Apple Pie as I had on hand!

Apple Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour             1/2 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder        1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup apple juice      1/3 cup vegetable oil (or milk)
1 egg                         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apples - peeled, cored and finely diced

Heat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Grease bottoms only of 12 muffin cups or line with baking cups. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. In a small bowl, combine apple juice, oil, and egg; blend well. Add dry ingredients all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened (batter will be lumpy.) Stir in chopped apples.  Fill cups 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 1 minute before removing from pan. Serve warm.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Not too Proud to Pick

Renea Winchester, member of Christ UMC, is a fellow blogger and author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes.  I thought you would enjoy her writing so she is my guest blogger this week. You can read more at (and check out her contest, info below).


Not too Proud to Pick

Few things give me greater joy that picking fresh fruits and vegetables. This morning, upon awakening the usual “to-do” list immediately made an appearance. In a matter of minutes I had jotted ten things on a list and effectively filled the day. Punting them all, I gathered a recycled plastic bucket and begin walking toward the Target Super Center where a plethora of berries hung waiting for a brave picker such as yours truly.

Here in Atlanta folk aren’t enthusiastic about berry picking. Especially since these berries are situated along a busy road. For me, picking is therapeutic. Place me in a field and I won’t leave until every single thing is harvested.

Lord, please protect me from snakes, bees and biting ants, I think while stepping into a field abundant with Queen Anne’s Lace. Oh and please, no chiggers. I add.

Where I grew up Queen Anne’s Lace is called the “Chigger Plant.”

My thoughts raced as fast as the rushing cars. Allow me to share them with you.

My mom would like a cobbler. I should take her some. She has chemo this Friday and I am always trying to think of something special for her.

I am so thankful my husband has a job. We-like many-have seen our share of job loss and financial worries.

The peaches will be ready soon. Oh how my Dad loves peaches. I should take him some as a Father’s Day gift.

Protect my daughter from the school bully. She witnessed one student threaten another yesterday…something she will not tolerate.

Thank you for Kelle. My fellow picker. Help Doe as she travels. She suffers from flight-anxiety. Be with my friends who are struggling on many levels.

Thank you for giving Courtney the gift of healing. I feel so much better. Courtney is a healing massage therapist who recently unkinked my very painful back ailment.

As the bucket fills the light strikes the berries in a way that causes my eyes to well with tears. Oh. How precious is my life. How I take it for granted. How rapid the years are slipping away.

With the bucket full, I walk home. As my muscles protest beneath the weight I think, what am I going to do with all these berries?. Almost immediately an elderly lady approaches. I know. I will give some away. I will give some to a stranger.

“Good morning. How are you today?” I ask wearing a smile and juice-stained fingertips. She grunts a response. Again another lesson in how our actions affect our life. She will not receive any berries.

I’ll call Miss Mary. She’ll appreciate them. I think as I turn into my driveway.

Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. She is an award-winning author who was recently named the Author of the Year by the National Pen Women Association, Atlanta Chapter. The 100th subscriber to her blog will receive a $ 10.00 Gift Certificate to Botanical Interests, a family owned company whose products Renea adores.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


 . . . for God is a God not of disorder but of peace.           
1 Corinthians 14:33

Summer is finally beginning – not that it hasn’t been hot, not that the kids haven’t been out of school.  But summer is finally beginning because after a busy family trip, annual conference, VBS and a few other items, I can finally enjoy the slow pace of the season. 

Summer is often a slow time at churches.  Many programs are on pause.  Plans for the fall won’t get into gear for another couple of months.  It is time to slow down after a long and busy season, take stock, and to begin putting things back in order.

For me, putting things back in order is a necessity for both home and office.  If you had seen the stacks of books and papers around my desk, well, you might think twice about coming in for a visit.  I’m sure some church members thought I was lost in there.  Many probably avoided it for fear of injury!  This season will finally allow me to put back the shelf that fell, find places for the endless stream of books that seem to flow into my ownership, and to make some sense of my work space and my work.

At home, I have celebrated the warm season by finally managing to cook a dinner out of the Bass Family and Friends cookbook.  I made a simple Egg Quiche and I am actually writing about it.  After a long hiatus, it feels like breathing again.

I have lots of other projects planned.  All of them have to do with putting things in order.  I plan to clean out a few closets and one big basement.  I hope to get lots of paperwork filed.  I am working on copying all of my pictures to disk, as they are currently scattered throughout the house among envelopes and boxes, cameras and computers.   All of this is in addition to writing weekly sermons, making and returning e-mails and calls, attending meetings, etc. (lest anyone at church think I am slacking off!).

Scripture tells us that our God is a God of order, or at least it says that in the negative.  I use this line occasionally in church when we need to sharpen some practice or clean up a room.  But I often look around and wonder.  The evidence doesn’t always seem to point that way.

My life bears little order. In fact, I am in the middle of a life stage known for its disorderliness.  I have two young children and a very busy job.  While no one would think it surprising if my house was in just a little disarray, I long for order – for things to have a place where they are easily put, where they will be easily retrieved again, to have surroundings that create calm, and not the all too common anxiety and chaos.

When it comes to things like family pictures, the anxiety bubbles up even more.  I deeply fear losing them.  What I really fear, I imagine, is losing some precious part of my children’s lives and my own life.  Losing the present moment.  Like the Court Yard Hounds, my heart sings about “The Fear of Wasted Time.”  

Time might pass me by,
if I close my eyes.  

This is my song too.  I think that much of my anxiety over order is really the fear of loss of the present.  Fear of missing out on something important.

It is comforting to know that our God who is a God of order is also a God of memory.  In scripture, we are called on again and again to remember.  Even when we can’t, I believe that God remembers for us.  I have to take some comfort in knowing that all things – and all memories – are in the divine hands.  That nothing has to be lost forever.

So I will try to stay calm as I work through the ordering process, and remember what is most important:   the relationships with the ones who make the memories worth having.  May you and yours have a blessed and memory-filled summer.

Blessed eating!

Egg Quiche

1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked                           6 large eggs
1 c. half and half                                               ¼ t. dried thyme
¼ t. dried parsley                                             ½ t. salt
1/8 t. black pepper                                          dash nutmeg (optional)
½ c. shredded Cheddar or Swiss cheese      ¼ c. ch. Onion
¼ c. chopped ham

Preheat oven to 400o F.  Pierce unbaked pie crust several times with fork; set aside.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, and seasonings. Sprinkle cheese, vegetables, and ham over unfilled pie crust.  Pour in egg mixture.  Bake at 400o for 45 to 60 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Serves 6 to 8. – Lisa Wade