Turning the Tables – Guest Post by Debbie Jensen

I was thrilled when my friend Deb (who, you will remember, taught me how to make “the fixins” for a Christmas meal) offered to write a guest post for Operation: Recipe Swap. But wait, it’s about having me as a cooking student! The kitchen table has been turned… 

DebbieSo, you have been reading Lori’s blogs about her adventures in cooking.  I would like to speak for those of us who have had the experience of actually having this lovely woman in our homes.  OK, so I can only give you my experience, but maybe some of the other teachers can relate. Continue reading

The Heart of the Home

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My friend Beth Hill wrote a blog post on a Baking 101 workshop we took together at our church this past Monday night (led by Lynn Dyck of pineapple upside down cake acclaim).

I got some great tips about baking the perfect muffins. Beth got the essence of the lesson.

Please read her post on the heart of the home.

Bite-sized wisdom – Part IV

We covered so much in this lesson, there are so many parts, I’ve had to brush up on my Roman numerals. Any more and I’d be forced to break out the Roman Numeral Converter.

Appetizers are a food meant for celebration. They are built for fun. They come bite-sized so you don’t have to think about calories or portions, should you or shouldn’t you, you just think about that taste sensation that enters you mouth and makes you smile. Yes, appie rhymes with happy.

Tanya makes appetizers most often for date nights with her husband, Chris. It’s a lighter late-night fare, when you get the kids fed and put to bed, you don’t want a whole heavy dinner, so appetizers are perfect. And you can feed them to each other. She didn’t say that part, but it’s true. Continue reading

The Matter of the Heart – Guest Post

Today, I’m handing over the blog to someone very special, Joy McEwen. Joy and I share a few things in common: we’re both believers, moms, pastor’s wives and bloggers. And then there are those things that are quite different. Joy lives a rural life as a stay-at-home mom who is incredibly gifted in all things domestic. She has a life of contemplative, artful devotion that often evades me. Though younger than me, Joy is who I want to be when I grow up.

I asked her to share her experience in learning to cook. She has a deeply spiritual and compelling response. Read on.

It seems to me that there are so many things in this world to divide our hearts.  Each of us inhabits the fullness of our life experiences, genetics, and personality and each one of these leaves its inevitable mark on the way we see things – politically, spiritually, culturally, and otherwise.

Yet whether it’s at a church potluck, a business lunch with colleagues, a Starbucks date with dear friends, a big old family dinner, or awkward small talk at a table with perfect strangers at a wedding feast, food has the power to bring us together.  There is just something in the breaking of bread at a shared table that levels us to our most basic common experience- our tangible need for sustenance meets the immortal, invisible hand of grace that lays before us the manna of heaven, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

I love that so much of Jesus work was done with a loaf in one hand and a cup of drink in the other.  In his short time amongst us, he made wine for a formal celebration; he multiplied fish amongst baskets for a hillside picnic; he sat amongst his friends in an Upper Room and passed the plates and talked of an everlasting meal.  His life was the embodiment of provision and constant invitation.  Come.

Joy Cake

Whenever I am in the kitchen baking or cooking, my two year old pulls up a chair and peeks her face over the counter edge alongside me and asks, “what are you doing mama?”  I know now that she is not looking for a synopsis of the situation.  She doesn’t want to know that I am baking a cake or boiling potatoes, but rather she wants to understand the process.  She wants to know that I am creaming butter and sugar, or salting the water.  Even at this age she wants to understand the pieces and how they fit together.

I don’t remember being that kind of child.  My grandmother and my mother are both wonderful cooks and bakers in their own right.  My Nana canned peaches and made strawberry jam that said everything about her love and life and faith, all bottled up in a mason jar.  But I don’t remember sitting under foot and studying their every operation.

As I came to fall in love in with the culinary arts in my early twenties, it seemed to be something that perhaps I had picked up by osmosis all those nights when I came home from high school and dropped my backpack and told my mom all about the boys I had crushes on and why while she stood over the cast iron skillet and fried pork chops.

Joy Muffins

It seemed to be a passion that was lying dormant in my very bones until just the right moment.  I had reached a point in my life where the creativity that flowed in my veins just needed a way out.  I didn’t understand that I was an artist with an artist’s heart, just like my grandfather who painted milk cans and flower pots and took the very plain vessels of life and gave them colours and textures and stories.  I didn’t understand that artists could use things other than horsehair brushes, charcoals, and many hued pencils to tell his story and sing his songs.

Sometimes it occurs to me that God didn’t have to make food beautiful.  He didn’t have to make early summer strawberries gleaming red as radiant rubies.  He didn’t have to make the seeds of a kiwifruit seem like a million black fireworks bursting against a bright green sky.  It would have been enough that it filled our stomachs and kept our bodies in motion.  It could have been tasteless and colourless gruel with no smells of invitation.  It could have been nothing enticing, but instead it is everything that draws us in- towards each other, towards our truest selves, towards Him if we have the eyes to see.


Some of us can lay a feast worthy of the giants of the foodie world (not me, certainly).  Some of us can call ourselves adequate home cooks.  Some of us call ourselves beginners and we are daring ourselves to learn each and every day.  Some of us will bake from scratch, and some of us will serve a cake out of a box.  Some of us will flour our counters and incidentally our floors and bake our own bread and some of us will go to the bakery and buy a fresh loaf.  In all of this, there is a degree of same difference.  In all of this, there is the matter of the heart.

Even as a competent baker and cake decorator and home cook, I have to admit that the biggest challenge in culinary preparation is a matter of casting down my pride – that at the end of the day it’s not about the degree of homespun-ness but of hospitality.  It’s not the question of whether my table could be shared with Martha, or Nigella, or Bobby Flay.  It’s the question of whether my table is shared with my neighbour, my testiest congregants, the difficult sorts, as well as my friends, my family, and ultimately my God.  Do I have the grace and strength to serve?  Do I have the humility to be served?


Follow Joy on her blog, My Country Manse, or on Facebook.

Bite-sized Wisdom – Part III

To know Tanya is to love Tanya.

Tanya has that wonderful luminescent quality of brightening every space she enters. The mood changes for the better when Tanya walks into a room. Everyone wants to be around her; everyone wants to catch some of her vivacity for themselves.

I believe she has this effect because she genuinely loves people. And she often employs this quality by hosting fabulous parties and get-togethers. I have been the beneficiary of her hospitality many times and it’s always the best time. Whether it’s one of her famous Christmas dinner parties or an informal games night, you always leave Tanya’s home feeling merry. Part of it is that no matter what the occasion, Tanya has a casual way about her that puts you at ease. She loves to celebrate and that, invariably, requires the components of food and friendship. Continue reading

Bite-sized wisdom – Part II

Foodie: A person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation. A foodie is not necessarily a food snob, only enjoying delicacies and/or food items difficult to obtain and/or expensive foods; though, that is a variety of foodie. (Urban Dictionary’s word of the day on March 28, 2006.)

Operation Recipe Swap Tanya 052

The cooking session with Tanya was three of hours of butt-busting activity, the four of us (Tan, myself and my daughters, Mallory and Sophia) handling combinations of ingredients with which we, her apprentices, were completely unfamiliar.

I relied on my voice recorder to nab the details of Tanya’s instructions because I was too busy frying, stirring, mixing, slicing, and snapping to attention under Tanya’s watchful eye.

The alternate title for this entry is Foodie Bootcamp. Continue reading