Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression,and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Small Town Livin'

If you know me, you know that living in a tiny town in central Kentucky is not my ideal place of residence.  We live over an hour from the interstate and farther than that from what I refer to as "civilization".  If we want to go to Target, a decent restaurant, or a sporting event we have to plan our whole day [sometimes weekend] around it.  While I did not grow up in any metropolitan area, much of my adult life was spent in DFW and Atlanta rendering me unable to ever convert back into a small town girl. 

Rather than lament about all the things I won't be doing in the near future, I thought I'd share some observations about living in a small town.  Maybe you've found yourself in the same place I have.  Consider this a survival guide, of sorts. 

If we can't laugh...we might die [of boredom, that is].

Traffic- In this town, if you're stuck in traffic that means someone is driving their tractor on the highway.  This is perfectly normal.

Cows- While I greatly appreciate their purpose, I do not appreciate their smell.  With warmer weather comes the gentle perfume of muddy bovines wafting through my open windows.

Bud Lite- Is it "lite" or "light"?  Well, either way people sure do like to drink it in my neck of the woods.  So much in fact, that they forget where their trash cans are so they just throw the cans right out of their car window.  You heard me.  I'd like to know where all of the police are while these people are flinging beer cans out their window as they round the corner by my house.

Cigarettes- Did you know people still smoke?  I had forgotten about it altogether until I moved here.

Reusable grocery bags- Almost every time I'm at the store in this town with a reusable bag the cashier tries to ring it up.  Truthfully, there are actually a lot of people here that use them.  I. don't. get. it.

Making friends- Forget it.  "You ain't from around here, is ya?"  Ok, ok, so people don't really say that.  Well, most people don't.  But the key to making friends in a small town is to find the people who are also not from that town and bond with them.  That is your only chance.  I recently met several women who are just like me.  I recognized them by the glazed over "What the heck am I doing here?" look in their eyes. 

Gossip- What people don't know about you they will make up.  And even if they do know about you, they'll still make up their own stories.  Just don't worry about it.

Sporting events- When we lived in Fort Worth and most recently, Atlanta, we enjoyed going to MLB games.  We could easily hit up the Rangers/Braves whenever we felt like it.  This year, we'll be grilling hot dogs on the back porch and watching them on tv [if we get that channel here].  In this town, people are obsessed with their kids sports.  I mean obsessed.  Again, I don't get it.  This happens in all towns/cities, though it seems quite more influential here.

These are just a few funny things I've noticed lately 'round these parts.  Everything isn't negative, but if I don't poke fun at what is negative then I won't have anything to talk about.  Watch out for those tractors now, ya hear? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chunks

Sometimes when you just feel like living on the edge and going without a recipe, you end up with something golden.  That's what happened here. 

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup all natural peanut butter [I like chunky]
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole oats
3 oz. good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon.  In another bowl, use your mixer to combine the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy.  Then add in the egg, followed by the peanut butter and vanilla.  Lastly, add in the oats and you're ready to bake!

I baked mine on a silpat to keep them from sticking or getting too brown on the bottom.  If you don't have one [although you really should invest in one], just use parchment paper or a lightly oiled baking sheet.  I used a large cookie scoop, as always, and baked these at 350 for about 12 minutes.  You can adjust the baking time according to the size you make your cookies.  When they came out of the oven, I let them sit on the baking sheet for a couple minutes just so they wouldn't fall apart when transporting them to the cooling rack.

Let me just say that I made these cookies on Friday and on Sunday I made them again because we were having company.  The second time, though, I didn't add chocolate and...I actually like them better.  Here's what those looked like:
These cookies stayed chewy for the couple of days that they lasted around our house.  I think these are pretty wholesome and even suitable for breakfast.  Try them some time!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Baked Brownie

If I had only enough breath left in me to share one more recipe, this would be it. 

[pause for dramatic effect]

Seriously.  Have you ever been to Baked?  I haven't.  They're in Brooklyn, NY and Charleston, SC.  They have two cookbooks.  I want to share with you their brownie recipe.  Incidentally, it's very famous and even Oprah claims it to be her favorite brownie.  And if she says something is her favorite, it's practically Biblical. 

I consider myself to be a pretty good baker.  I make everything from scratch and can usually pull off even the most complicated of desserts.  However, my brownies always turn out like crap.  Brownies were my kryptonite, the one recipe that would leave me scratching my head asking, "What did I do wrong?"  Well, not anymore sister. 

I'm begging you to make these.  I promise you'll be so glad you did and you'll forget all about those Ghirardelli boxed mixes.  You may be wondering if this particular recipe is better than the one you use.  Let me put it this way: If world peace is to be achieved, it will be through this brownie.  Chewy, dense, fudgey...everything a brownie is supposed to be.  So get in your kitchen and crank these out!

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces of dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup [8 oz.] unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350.  Lightly butter/oil the sides and bottom of a 9x13 glass or lightly colored baking pan.  Line with parchment paper if you want.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa. 
Put the chocolate, butter, and espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepot with about an inch of simmering water in the bottom [a double boiler].  Stir occasionally until everything is nice and smooth.  Turn off the heat but keeping the bowl over the pot, stir in the sugars.  When completely combined, you can remove the bowl from the saucepan. 
*At this point, I transferred this mixture to a larger mixing bowl because you're going to be adding everything else to this mixture.
Next, whisk in 3 of the 5 eggs.  Then add the remaining eggs and the vanilla and mix until just combined.  Be very careful not to overmix or your fudgey brownies will become cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the top and fold in with a rubber spatula until you can only see just a little bit of flour.
Spread the mixture into your pan [if you can keep from eating it all] and smooth the top.  Bake in the center of your oven for 30 minutes.  Let them cool completely before cutting.  If you line your baking pan with parchment overlapping the sides, you can use this to pull the brownies out before slicing. 
You can store these in an airtight container for up to 3 days...if they last that long.