Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some final thoughts: Sand Tarts or Saint Hearts

Well, this is it! The final blog. It is a few weeks shy of a year but with over 52 entries, I am feeling it is time to turn my attention to some other things. The jar of scramble(pictured above) was something produced on each end of this project, December 2009 and December 2010.

The sand tarts are nice little uncomplicated Christmas cookies. Rolled thinly, brushed with rich milk, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar they are the perfect sweet treat for the cookie minimalist. Which I am. I love to look at those pretty, dripping, stone-studded cookies offered at a local bakery, but they are too much for my palate. I also love the alternative name the cookbook records for this cookie. Saint Hearts. It reminds me of a teaching colleague at the Catholic school. She told me recently about sitting at the school Mass with one of her very challenging students. She was praying for him and asking for patience to deal with his behavioral needs. He was nudging her all the while, saying her name. She asked him to wait so she could pray for more patience for yet another request. When she was done with her final desperate petition, the student whispered to her, "Mrs. W___, what do you have to do to be a saint?" When she relayed this experience to me, I laughed and laughed. Talk about a speedy reply.

I would like to have the heart of a saint. I want a heart that seeks to love in extraordinary ways, contains patience for troubles, has a need for little besides the opportunity to serve humanity. Sometimes, cooking in the kitchen with reverence for the women that created this beautiful book, as well as memories of the offered love by my mother and grandmother and finally with absolute gratefulness for the heritage of my faith community, I felt closer to acquiring the heart of a saint than ever before. I felt still in my kitchen even as my hands were busy. I felt content, even as I created a huge mess of flour covered counter tops and sticky dishes which would need attention. I felt hunger for goodness, even as I ate the solid foods from the hallowed pages of the Mennonite Community Cookbook. I don't do quiet and reflective well out in the big busy world. I react and overreact too much. In the warm place that is my kitchen, with memories of the only grandmother I ever knew, I found some peace of mind. I liked it.

Thank you for reading this blog and for sharing your own thoughts and memories. That was one of the great bonuses for me. Many of these recipes will continue to be made and served in my home. I loved the surprises I found along the way and am pleased to say that pie dough no longer intimidates me. The simple pleasures of cooking for those I love is always a gift. I count myself blessed that my grandmother and mother modeled that for me and that they let me help before I could do it myself.

I offer you now, and finally, the recipe for Sand Tarts or Saint Hearts adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).

1 cup shortening (I used one stick of butter, 1 stick of margarine)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add flour, salt and baking powder and mix well. Add enough flour to make a medium-soft dough (whatever this means). Chill several hours in the refrigerator. Roll the dough very thin and cut in fancy shapes. Brush top with half and half and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Place on greased cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Thank you so much for reading.
I wish you peace,
~Ellen ~


  1. I will miss reading had been a treasure to read about your family recipes and memories too. What's the next topic?

  2. Lovely final entry. It brought quiet reflection to my own kitchen.
    Thanks for a year of memories with MCC! For the record, I'm making Pfeffernusse (II), p. 280 today. Best to you and your family. dkm

  3. Thanks for all the wisdom and insights this year, Ellen. Nice final entry.
    I look forward to the next blog topic as well.

  4. Your blog has been a treat; I'm sorry the year is up. Your writing style with its mix of family tradition, good food and things spiritual made a very fine read. Often I could imagine your mother's kitchen as you wrote. :I love the photo of her making apple dumplings! I wish you well. --joan

  5. I've enjoyed your blog and meeting you at the Kaufman Museum. I felt very lucky when browsing in Layman's Antique store several weeks ago, where I found a later edition of the cookbook in perfect condition. I had been looking for the book off and on over the years, but forgot about it till you reminded me.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Walk in the Peace of Christ.

  6. Ellen, I have been spilling over your blog from the last year...and also drooling. You ARE a saint! I work with you and can't believe all that you do for others. I am so glad I get to work with you, and this blog is cool, and I get more insight into you.