peace and guacamole

This is the second week in my Advent Series. To see the first week, click here.

I confess I’ve had a heavy heart over the past couple of weeks. This is quite normal for me even in the calmest of Decembers — once the Christmas season officially starts, I find myself overwhelmed with functions and responsibilities. The tree is beautiful for a few days and then, slowly and surely, it’s plastic needles littering the carpeting and broken ornaments in the hands of enthusiastic toddlers. The normal routine becomes chaos: concerts, parties, late nights, long days.

 

Tonight alone, John said “MOM! Ev is kicking me!” no less than five times. To be clear: Ev was in his high chair, and John kept walking in front of him. Ev’s new favorite thing is yelling “OW!” even when no one is touching him, but rather when he is inconvenienced. Water cup is on the floor? “OW!” Can’t get out of the shopping cart at Target? “OW!” Need a diaper change? “OW! OW! OW!”

At the end of the night, Jay and I collapse onto couches and stare, glassy-eyed, at whatever show we are watching that moment. (It is currently Jessica Jones on Netflix.) At the end of the night, I would like to rest in peace, but instead I wallow in exhaustion.

So can we really know peace?

When the boys are fighting in front of me, I usually counter their loudness with more loudness. I get agitated. I get frustrated. I get tired. I don’t see peace in my home. When I look to the outside world, I see Syrian refugees being turned away. I see terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic. I don’t see peace in the world, either.

 

We won’t find peace if we are looking for worldly comfort. We will only find peace when we make time to talk with God and discover his will for our lives. If your day is hard, if it is painful and exhausting, stop and ask for peace. It isn’t about changing things around you, it’s about re-centering yourself.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

If you are caught up in the frustration of preparing for another holiday party, stop, find your peace, and take fifteen minutes to throw together this guacamole. It’s easy! It’s festive! It’s good for you! (Kind of. Unless you eat the whole bowl. With a bag of tortilla chips. Which I can easily do.)

GUACAMOLE

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This recipe is not exact. You have to use trial and error and sample a lot as you go (go ahead, pretend to feel sad about that).

6 ripe avocados
1 tomato
1 lemon
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Chop the avocados and tomato as shown above. Add the juice of one lemon, several splashes of red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. Stir so the guacamole becomes slightly mushy (this is the technical cooking term) and taste, add, taste, add until you get the balance of ingredients you enjoy.

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Festive, because red and green! See? Enjoy!

the staples, part 2

Now that you’ve had a few days to think about planning your life or cutting yourself some slack on your plans… how’s it going? For my part, I’ll say this: I stayed on top of my food plans and fell behind on my house cleaning plans. I love a clean house, friends. I love it. So I stayed up quite late last night and did very silly things like sneaking clean clothes into sleeping boys’ rooms and meticulously cleaning up the basement (which no one ever sees). Yes, now (or last night) would be the perfect time to say “give yourself a break with the cleaning, Jennie! Start your plans new this week, pick up the slack as you go!”

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

And now, a treat! Three, in fact. These are the three homemade staples that I flat out refuse to buy in a store. The homemade versions are just so, so much better. Test it out for yourself!

1. Peanut Butter

Peanutty goodness. Old picture from when I only made PB in a food processor. It works just as well, although your PB may be crunchier than it is smooth.
Peanutty goodness.
Old picture from when I only made PB in a food processor. It works just as well, although your PB may be crunchier than it is smooth.

This is SO simple and delicious. If you have a peanut allergy, I apologize for starting with something so amazing that you cannot have. For this (and the rest of the homemade staples) I use my trusty Blendtec blender. The Blendtec is mighty and works really well, but if you have another blender you love, use it! You can also use a food processor.

Add three cups of peanuts to your blender. Blend for about a minute on a medium setting.
Add two tablespoons of peanut oil.
Scrape down sides, blend for another minute or two, stopping to check consistency periodically.
It’s done when it’s as smooth or as crunchy as you like it.

Store: in air-tight container in fridge for up to two weeks.

2. Hummus

I actually don't have a picture of MY hummus. So here's Ev, who loves hummus, and is pretty sad about that.
I actually don’t have a picture of MY hummus. So here’s Ev, who loves hummus, and is pretty sad about that.

I love hummus, and you can do so many things with it… use as a veggie dip, a sandwich spread, a pizza topping — go nuts! (Go chickpeas!) (I’m sorry.)

Add the following to your blender or food processor:
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs tahini (sesame seed paste, sold at grocery stores near pasta sauces usually)
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
15 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained except for 1/3 cup liquid

Blend until smooth. Once you’ve mastered the traditional hummus, experiment with spices, roasted vegetables, herbs — whatever flavors you love. If it’s a disaster, it’s a disaster. Don’t make the same mistakes next time. But please have a next time!

Store: in air tight container in fridge for up to two weeks.

3. SALSA

This photo doesn't do the salsa half the justice it deserves. I am completely biased and this is the best salsa on planet earth.
This photo doesn’t do the salsa half the justice it deserves. I am completely biased and this is the best salsa on planet earth.

I grew up loving salsa. Anything from a jar or restaurant was equal and delicious in my book. Then I started making my own, and a salsa snob was born. This has a few more steps and takes longer than the other two — but I assure you, it is worth it!

Ingredients:
7 or 8 tomatoes (I prefer romas for this)
3 or 4 bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange)
1 or 2 jalepenos
1 onion
Bunch cilantro
2 or 3 cloves garlic
Lemon or lime
Kosher Salt

Place the whole bell peppers, jalepenos, and onions on the grill and char until all of the skin is black. Allow to cool, and peel off outer burned layer (if you peel while holding it under running water, it can be a little easier). Rough chop the grilled veggies and the tomatoes. (NOTE: remove the seeds from the jalepenos unless you want your salsa HOT! Leave in some for a medium salsa. Remove all for mild.) Chop the cilantro and garlic; add everything to blender (you may need to do this in batches). When the mixture is the consistency you like, add salt and citrus juice to taste. This may take a little trial and error on your part. Have a bag of tortilla chips at the ready, and go to town.

Store: in air tight container in fridge for up to two weeks.