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Archive for March, 2010

One Step Closer

The conversation began with a Friday-morning trickle of dissatisfaction and took only moments to swell into a full fledged deluge of frustration. My 10-year old son’s laments went like this…

While we cleaned up after breakfast:
“I wish I didn’t have to go to school.”

After he brushed his teeth:
“School is boring, Mom.”

As we left the house:
“Other kids have lots more breaks from school than I do.”

While we loaded his backpack in the car:
“I wish I was sick so I could stay home. Do you think I might have a fever?”

As we buckled our seatbelts:
“Homeschooled kids have lots more free time.”

Pulling out of the driveway:
“Can I please stay home?”

Leaving our neighborhood:
“Public school kids don’t have as much homework.”

I’ve presented Mason’s comments as a monologue, but you can be sure that I offered pearls of wisdom aplenty in response to his attempts to weasel out of a day of school. I won’t bore you with them here, but I’m sure you’d have been impressed! After about ten attempts to redirect his focus toward gratitude, instill in him a desire to learn and encourage him to maintain perspective, I realized that it was going to take more than pithy rejoinders to help him readjust.

It was time for a story.

I read this morning about the Israelites. You know, they’d been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. God heard their cries for help and sent Moses to plead with Pharaoh for their release. Pharaoh wasn’t so keen on losing his highly productive slave force, so he refused again and again until God helped him see the light, and he let the people go.

They were free, and they were really happy about it for a little while. When they saw Pharaoh’s army coming after them, they complained and told Moses about how they longed for the good old days in Egypt! God rolled back the sea, and they walked across on dry land. Once the last Israelite made it to safety, the wall of water crashed down on Pharaoh’s finest, and none survived. The Israelites had quite a party to celebrate.

It only took three days for them to forget. They were thirsty, and the water was bitter, so they grumbled. God made the water sweet, and they were on their way again. In a matter of weeks, they were complaining again because they were hungry. So God sent bread from heaven, and their full stomachs made them happy…for a while.

They traveled further and grew thirsty again. You’d think they would have learned a thing or two about God by now. You’d think they would have realized that He would give them whatever they needed, but no. It was easier to complain than trust. So that’s what they did. I haven’t mentioned it, but with every complaint, they also blamed Moses for their misery. They accused Him of bringing them into the desert to die. They blamed him for their hunger and thirst and told him they would rather be slaves in Egypt with tasty food than free people in the desert who had to depend on God for their next meal. They were out of water again, so they did what came naturally…complaining. God told Moses to strike a nearby rock to turn into a gushing fountain.

At this point, I asked Mason if he remembered where the Israelites were headed when they left Egypt. He confirmed, “The Promised Land.” I also asked if he noticed a pattern in the Israelite’s attitude. “They complained a lot.” With these satisfactory answers.

It was time to capitalize on the teachable moment.

The Israelites were free. Their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and generations before them had lived their whole lives as slaves, and now they were free. Trouble was, they barely noticed because all they could think about was the moment. They forgot they were on their way to the Promised Land.

We’re all on our way to a Promised Land, but getting there means we have to cross the desert. Deserts aren’t easy to get across. We have to face challenges we’d rather not face. We have to do things we don’t feel like doing. We can choose to complain or to trust. We can focus our attention on the obstacle that gets in the way of what we want, or we can believe that it’s all  part of God’s great plan.

We neared the drop-off line in front of the school, and I stole a quick glance at my son’s face. It had been transformed. Where there had been a furrowed brow and discontented eyes minutes before, now there was peace and resolve. Truth had hit its mark, and this ordinary school day had taken us both just one step closer to the Land of Promise.

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It’s been too long since I posted a recipe around here, so to make up for lost time, today I’m posting three. With that said, and a trio of tastes to go, we’d better begin.

Potato Latkes

Potato pancakes are the national dish of Belarus and a staple in Hanukkah celebrations, but who needs to travel across the world or wait for a special holiday to enjoy them when they are fun to make and a perfect complement to soup or salad.

2 med. potatoes (I like Yukon Gold with the skins on).
1 lg. yellow onion
2 carrots
2 T. flour (I use whole wheat)
2 T. cornmeal
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T.  Italian parsley, chopped (optional)
1 T. fresh thyme, chopped (optional)
2 eggs. beaten
canola or peanut oil, for frying

Shred all vegetables with a mandoline or food processor. Place potatoes in cold water for 10 minutes to remove some of the starch. Dry the potatoes in a salad spinner or by squeezing out the moisture with paper towels. (The salad spinner is much faster and works like a charm). Toss veggies with the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and herbs.  Stir in eggs, and mix well.

Gently drop 1/4 c. patties into hot oil. I do this by using a 1/4 c. measuring cup to scoop up the potato mixture and then turn it onto the back of a metal spatula and flatten it out with the measuring cup. Sounds funny, but it makes the job easy. Cook until lightly browned, and then flip to cook the other side. Drain on paper towels.  Keep your oil good and hot so they won’t be greasy at all on the inside, and you will get all of the great taste of the veggies and herbs. Salt to taste. A little grate of fresh Parmesan doesn’t hurt either.

By the way, I plan to try these with some sweet potato thrown in soon. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Homemade Applesauce

Making applesauce myself is a new venture, so I suspect I’ll improve on this over time. For now, though, it’s short, sweet and couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

4 apples, skins on, cored and chopped (I use Gala and/or Golden Delicious).
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar (I use raw).
1/2 t. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until apples are tender, approximately 15 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or mash with a fork.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

This is imminently yummy with spring greens, dried cranberries and a healthy dose of blueberries, blackberries, sliced almonds, pumpkin, flax and sesame seeds. Plenty antioxidants and taste to match.

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. raspberry wine vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. pepper
1 T. seedless raspberry jam (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until all ingredients are well mixed/emulsified. Serve with greens for plenty of goodness.

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