Monday, September 29, 2014

Baking Friday - Cookie # 9

It's a Peanut Butter Cookie Throw Down!
Neither of our cookies is the "traditional" peanut butter cookie that we all had when we were kids.  Not a thing wrong with that cookie - unless, of course, you over bake them.  But otherwise, it is a classic for good reasons.

Nay, Deb wasn't going to do the classic peanut butter cookie.  She wanted to see what else was out there in the world of peanut butter cookies.  And she found these two!

One of our cookies defies the definition of cookie.  Only four ingredients - peanut butter, sugar, egg and vanilla.  No flour.  No leavening.  No fuss, but a cookie?  The other cookie is a bit closer to our traditional peanut butter cookie - at least it has the more classic ingredients, including good, ol' flour and leavening.

Can you guess which one is which?

I didn't tell my taste testers either until folks had guessed a bit.

Which one is our four ingredient cookie?  Is it this one?
Or is it this one?
A couple of my taste testers guessed the bottom one.  But two of my young taste testers are quite the cookie connoisseurs and knew immediately that it was the one on the top!

Here is that recipe...and for those who watch such things, is this gluten free?

1 cup of peanut butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
Splash of vanilla (I added a splash of almond and a dash of salt, too)

Mix them together.  (They will look a lot like wet sand.)
Shape them into balls.
Flatten with the tines of a fork (like the classic peanut butter cookie we've all known!)
Bake 15 minutes @ 325, and you have cookies!  IMPOSSIBLE, right???   This doesn't make sense!
How should this work?  It shouldn't!  But it does!  And the taste of peanut butter really pops on these - in an almost candy-like way.  If you don't have flour, but you want peanut butter cookies, you can!  If you don't have butter and shortening and leavening on hand, but you want peanut butter cookies, you can!  How crazy is this?!

The other cookie recipe looks more like a cookie recipe, for cryin' out loud!  This one should have been the clear winner in our throw down, but alas, twas not to be!  It was just ok.  Soft, but just ok.  I found that they did improve some after a couple of days, so if you want to bake ahead, let them sit on the counter for a couple of days and then sandwich them with some sort of icing or filling.  As you can tell, I was disappointed a bit, but this link will show you the ingredients to get me to this batch of dough.
Same general plan as our first...roll into balls...but no fork tines this time around.
And bake for 15 minutes @ 325 degrees again until just golden but not over done.
I baked both cookies on parchment paper and let them hang out on the cookie sheet for about 2 min. before sliding the parchment onto the counter to finish cooling.

G and I did a tasting the night before - right as they came out of the oven.  And I was pretty sure at that point which cookie would win the next morning.  But I also felt like a bit of peanut butter icing and some chocolate drizzle would help, especially the softer peanut butter chews one.
So that is what I did.  I filled a pastry bag full of peanut butter icing and let folks add at will. one of my fine taste testers did towards the end of the day....took that nearly full pastry bag of icing and squirted the whole thing straight into his mouth!  (Can we say it had been a long week at work last week?  Sort of like a Happy Hour that was workplace compliant?  Maybe?)

Would I do either recipe again?  Yep, I would do the 4 ingredient one, especially with little kids.  It comes together super fast and with very little mess, and they can form them into balls by hand - or have a fully edible play dough to shape anyway they want if there are no raw egg health concerns.  And in under 45 minutes, they have cookies that they made themselves!

And while the other recipe came from King Arthur Flour's website, what can I say?  Nobody's perfect in this world, right?

Thanks for stopping by!  Can you believe we've finished off 9 months of these Baking Fridays?  We are coming down the home stretch with our full holiday season...Halloween, Thanksgiving and the bestest baking holiday of all - Christmas!  Hope you come back this Friday for our Baking Friday - Cake # 10.  I'm actually doing cupcakes!!  I feel 15 years younger just thinking about cupcakes!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why I Believe - Race Doesn't Exist

Hello Reader,

I know that I still owe a post about our Cookie # 9 - a peanut butter cookie throw down.  I also have pics and narrative spinning around in my head about our latest visit to Springfield and a couple of showers for our two newest grandchildren.

But all of those will have to wait.  There was more stupid stuff in Ferguson last night and word is that two police officers were shot.  So other stuff is on my mind, and you are free to continue reading or to ignore and wait for happier posts.  I can't blame you either way.  If you are sick of the subject, so am I.  If you are still interested in the subject of the happenings in Ferguson, so am I.  So I get how you may be torn about whether to continue reading this post or not.

Beyond that, this post will mainly be directed to my children.  I have debated with the idea of posting every so often on "Why I Believe" a particular subject or topic is true or not true.  While I would like to think that my kids all know why I believe what I believe, they truly may not.  And since one of the main purposes of this blog is so that my kids can have a written record of who I am and how I see life and what I think long after I am gone, it would be incomplete without a "Why I Believe" section.  Those posts won't be in any particular order and the sum total could never be combined into a book on systematic theology; I would never presume to undertake such a task.  But I know that looking back on my own memories of my parents, there are gaps - things I thought I understood that perhaps I didn't understand.  Things and events in their lives that I simply do not know.  I want to close that gap as much as possible for my own children (blood and step and adopted) and grandchildren (all of the above here as well).  Please bear in mind that there will be many who agree with certain points and many who disagree with certain points in any of these "Why I Believe" postings.  I doubt that any one person would agree with every conclusion I express.  My intention is not to persuade my children and grandchildren to agree with me as much as offer them ideas to consider and help them to know and understand me when memories of me may fade or questions arise long after I am around to answer them.

Ok, so I think that the Deb Disclaimers and Preambles are all complete.  If you are still reading, here is my first "Why I Believe" post:

Why I believe that race doesn't exist.

I began this post saying that more stupid stuff had occurred in Ferguson last night.  And I meant that - I chose the word "stupid" for a reason.  Because I believe the rioting and the looting and the shooting and yes, even the protesting is stuck in stupid.  I have said for years that we all do stupid stuff.  But I HATE stuck in stupid!  When I find that I am doing something over and over again and expecting a different result, it is not only insane, it is stuck in stupid.  Now I realize that to compare this to what has been going on in Ferguson is tantamount to "hate" and "racism" and "intolerant", but I tend to be very goal oriented.  If I am working on a project at home or at work, I need to be able to articulate what the goal is.  And I, for one, don't understand the goal of all that is going on.  I understand anger, and I understand grief, and I understand how emotion can override clear thought, but I have yet to understand the goal of even the peaceful protesters.  What do they expect to accomplish? What is it that they want to see changed?

But I am getting ahead of myself here.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that "race" as the word is commonly used today is a false term.  It doesn't exist.  If I believe, which I do, that every human in all of time descended from Adam and Eve and then later from Noah, then there is no such thing as a black race or a white race or an Indian race or a Chinese race or any other genetically known "race".  We are all humans.  Period.  Have we descended with different skin color traits or with different cultural backgrounds?  Yes, definitely.  Have we inherited other genetic traits and predispositions to certain health risks and diseases?  Yes, again.  But that doesn't mean we are separate races.  It means we had parents and grandparents and distant relatives who migrated to certain regions of the world and any number of environmental factors began to strengthen and weaken various DNA codes.  I am well aware that I just lost any number of readers here...that my thinking is far too shallow and naive to be given credibility...that this shows that I don't believe in macroevolution, so I'm not offering an intelligent argument, but this is truly what I believe.  We are all simply and only of the human race.  We are not of the fish race or the bird race or the plant race.  We belong to the human race only.

I also twitch at the use of the word "race", based primarily on skin color and other genetic traits, as an identifier.  I was born with very fair skin.  Did I have any control over that?  Am I responsible for my particular skin color?  Are my parents?  Is skin color right or wrong?  Of course not!  So why would I want to be identified by my skin color?  Do I want to be identified by my name?  Yes, definitely.  Do I want to be identified by my work ethic?  If good, yes, definitely.  Do I want to be identified by my designation as "Mother" or "Grandma Deb" or "Mimi"?  ABSOLUTELY!  No doubt about those!  But to be identified by my skin color?  No, why would I?  What is gained or learned about me by that?  Very little - only the stuff that matters to people who make a living by demographic stats.  No thank you.

So if those ideas have credibility, then it would follow that racism isn't a "thing" either.  I argue that racism is simply another example of sin.

Ok, so the introduction of that word just lost another set of readers, because sin is an old-fashioned word that people don't want to hear any more.  But again, this is my "Why I Believe" post, not yours, and I happen to believe that sin is real.  Worse than that, I happen to believe that sin isn't so much an act as a result of a condition.  Yes, folks, you are about to read that I believe we are sinners by nature, and we sin because we are sinners, not the other way around.  We don't become sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.  Radical thought to some, but I know that I am not alone in this thought.  I site toddlers as my example of this belief.  Do we have to teach toddlers to be selfish?  Do we have to teach toddlers to take things?  No, we instead work to teach toddlers to not be selfish; we teach toddlers to share.  Selfishness as a sin is innate in all of us; we are all born with that in our very nature.

Now I want to stop and make a distinction in sin.  I also believe that there are two kinds of sinful acts - those that are untaught and common to all, such as selfishness and the "gimmes", and those that are taught and not necessarily common to everyone, such as who or what to hate, i.e., racism.  And once taught, it can be very difficult to un-teach that thought.  We all have a tendency to not only get stuck in stupid, but stuck in thinking, or perhaps stated as stuck in stupid thinking.

And I would argue that racism is a sin that results from being stuck in stupid thinking.  How crazy is it to imagine that we need to change the conversation away from calling each other "racists" and to instead think about working together because there is a goal that can be beneficial to all?  Isn't that at least a start away from stuck in stupid thinking?

So I would argue that rather than identifying people by the color of their skin or by what I see as a false term known as "race", something for which we have no responsibility, what if we saw people for their actions and responded accordingly?  It's not just thugs who are sinners in need of grace; it is all of us in need of grace.  But even without Christ, folks understand right from wrong for they have been given a conscience by their Creator (Rom. 1:19 - 23 for those who are inclined to look that up.)

I would argue that there isn't race; we are all humans who act and should be held responsible for our actions.

I would argue that there are thugs and there are law-abiding citizens.

I would argue that there are those who disrespect the law and law-enforcement, and there are those who respect the law and law-enforcement.

I would argue that there are those who use anger for evil, and there are those who use anger for good.
I would argue that there are unreasonable people, and there are reasonable people.  And good luck trying to reason with the unreasonable.  If you can do it better than I, more power to ya.

But to do so - to identify and recognize people by these dividers - is more helpful to the conversation.  These identifiers have much more meaning and apply to people of all skin colors and genetic traits.

I know that some argue that this is just a matter of education or re-education away from the sinful pattern of thinking that taught us who or what to hate.  And education is a part of the whole, no doubt.  However, education can only go so far.   "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up"..."and love covers over a multitude of sins."  And love is a heart condition, not a head condition.

So I pray love.  As simplistic and naive and boring as that sounds, I pray love.  For this city.  For this state.  For this country.  So much divides us these days, and we seem to "celebrate" that division in the name of diversity more so than celebrating what we have in common in the name of unity.  But if I can build love and unity through common service and common goals and common laughter or tears, then that accomplishes so much more in my mind than division and diversity ever could.

Perhaps if we stopped talking of each other based on skin color, refusing to separate each other by a false term called "race", then racism - the sin - might person at a time.  For I cannot change how my children or my grandchildren or my husband or my neighbor thinks about things.  And I'm not arguing for more PC speech police here.  But I can work to change how I think, how I speak, how I act.

And that is why I believe race doesn't exist. If I choose to see each person as human only - as brother or sister descended from Adam and Eve - then maybe the conversation can move someplace better - to looking at what is best for society, where justice and our unalienable rights are at all times blind and prevailing.  When that happens, we are all stronger.  When that happens, we may not all be richer in our pocket books, but we are all richer as human beings.  When that happens, differences will exist but they don't have to divide.  When that happens, humans and life are celebrated.

And those are all good things.

Mom, Mimi, Grandma Deb...or as some may now think...a/k/a PollyAnna

Friday, September 26, 2014

Baking Friday - Bread # 9

And it's not cheeseburger sliders.  And it's not muffins.  It's Monkey Bread!
Who doesn't love monkey bread?  You can make it using canned biscuits, cut them up into fourths, dip the pieces in melted butter and then cinnamon sugar and then bake them in a round cake pan or a Bundt pan.  Easy.  Yummy.  Winner!

This isn't the canned biscuit version.  This is based on yeast dough, and I will give you the recipe of how I would do it next time.  But this was a hit nonetheless!  One man said that he thought it was the favorite thing he'd tasted that I'd brought into my taste testers.

BUT - one man, my friend from Scotland - asked the most provocative question.  Why is it called Monkey Bread?

Now, I'd never wondered that myself, so I didn't have any answer for him!  Another friend close by said it was because it resembled the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Uh, what?  Really?  I dismissed that answer almost immediately.

HOWEVER....he was right!  Yet another friend, my self-appointed Food Historian Research Analyst went into full research mode and found this informative background on this famous breakfast bread.

Food Historian Research Analyst:
As for the Monkey Bread, (although I agree, it’s a funny name) this tasty treat has actually been around since about 1903, (though it’s barely known outside of the United States) and though there are several different stories on how it got its strange name, the most believable one is also the simplest.

This cake bears a striking resemblance to the fruit of the Araucaria araucana or Baobab tree, (commonly called the monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree). 
The fruit from this tree is fruit is called Monkey Brain Fruit, or Monkey Orange.

(This is what they look like when they fall on the ground)
 The outside isn’t very appealing, I’ll grant you, but the inside, (I think you will agree), looks a lot like the treat we enjoy as Monkey Bread. 
Deb Insert:  Ok, now that is starting to make sense!  Right?

Back to our Food Historian Research Analyst:

And although this tasty Breakfast Bread goes by many names…  Whether you call it Monkey bread, monkey puzzle bread, sticky bread, African coffee cake, golden crown, pinch-me cake, pluck-it cake, bubble-loaf or monkey brains, (after the fruit) we can all agree on one thing. There should be a lot more of it.  It was incredibly delicious, and one of the better offerings I’ve seen, in the arena of Monkey Bread.  (Ah, thanks for that endorsement Food Historian Research Analyst!)

To that end, here’s a little more, as I was just looking it up, (to double-check myself) and found that other possible etymologies out there include the fact that the act of several people pulling at the bread is reminiscent of monkey behavior.   Also the packaging of a stoneware "Monkey Pot" made by Boston Warehouse in 1981 claimed that "monkey bread was named by that unique and whimsical comedienne, ZaSu Pitts, (1894-1963) who so referred to it because, as she said, "you have to monkey around with it."  

Here’s ZaSu Pitt’s original recipe for Monkey Bread, (dating back to 1945)
"Monkey Bread” (by ZaSu Pitts)
1 12/ cup cakes compressed yeast
1 cup milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1 tablespoon sugar
3 to 4 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the lukewarm milk. Add the butter, then flour, eggs, well beaten and the salt. Beat well. Let rise and beat again. If the dough should rise too quickly, place in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour. Roll out very thinly and use a small diamond shaped cutter. Butter each piece individually and fill a ring half full. Let rise to double in bulk and bake in a moderately hot oven (425 degrees F.) for about 20 minutes."

---"Culinary Clinic: ZaSu Pitts Just Loves to Cook," Winnipeg Free Press Canada [Canada] February 8, 1945 (p. 11)

It was also said that some food historians believe it could be a Middle Eastern recipe since they were the first to make sweet rolls with butter and cinnamon.  But it also has been closely linked to the German bread “Affenbrot” (in German, this literally meaning “ape bread"), or Gorilla Bread.  But either way, it’s been a staple in cookbooks since the 1950’s, and the earliest known reference to monkey bread was (pain de singe in French) in De Wildeman 1903.

It’s also been a favorite dessert served in the White House by first ladies.  The first was Pat Nixon, (who served it regularly) and the most notable was Nancy Reagan, (who served it at Thanksgivings and Christmases at the White House).  Nancy has been quoted several times, (directly stealing the ZaSu line from 1945) “It’s called Monkey Bread, because you have to monkey around with it…”  

How's that for thorough?  I do LOVE me some good history.  And food history is the tastiest!  (Ba-dum-chink!)

Ready for the recipe and the pics that I did, which was not ZaSu Pitt's version, which is probably a very good version, too!  It is based on this recipe from the King Arthur website.

1 cups + 2 T. milk
4 T. butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup potato flakes
1-1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup water
1 t. vanilla
1/3 cup. cake flour
3-1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used 3-1/2 cups and found it a bit too stiff so I suggest cutting back)
2-1/2 t. yeast

I threw all of that in my Kitchen Aid Mixer with the dough hook and let it knead.  I found it a bit too stiff, so it took quite a while to rise.  I pretty much just let it rise while I went to bed and checked on it about 4am.  I punched it down and let is rest about 10 minutes before starting to shape.
I dipped the pieces in about 4 T. of milk, but next time I would dip in melted butter.  Because...butter. The cinnamon sugar was about 3/4 cup of sugar with 1 T. +/- cinnamon mixed together.  
My final prep step was to pour about 1/4 cup of maple syrup in the baking pan.  I used one 10" pan to take into work and one 6" pan to leave for G, but the recipe will make enough for two 8" - 9" pans or one Bundt pan.  Oh and I sprayed the pans with baking spray.
I began to make my pieces.  I used my bench knife, cause I just plain love my bench knife...

Split in half...

...and then fourths...
...and then random pieces.  See my bench knife?  Now those are some photography skills, let me tell ya!
See all these pieces?
Dip in the milk (but use melted butter instead!)
And then in the cinnamon sugar...
And then in the maple syrup lined pan.  Now that's some potential yum right there, folks!
Lather, rinse, repeat until your pans are full!  (Are you bored yet?)
Don't worry.  They look a little chintzy here, but I covered them with a towel and let them rise about an hour.  See?  Lo and behold!  Puffy!
This is when I added the melted butter...

...and then I baked them at 350 for 20 - 25 minutes until our proverbial golden brown and delicious!
I let them cool for about 3 minutes before inverting on a plate.  YUM!
Let's get a closer look!
Are you hungry yet?  How about if I add a light drizzle of a powdered sugar glaze...just cause...glaze.
And presentation.  Cause people eat with their eyes first after all.
You can totally do these.  How about for breakfast tomorrow?  Cause...Saturday.  Weekend.
No holiday this time, but we can simply call it Monkey Bread Day, right?

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you stop by tomorrow for our Baking Bread Cookie # 9....a peanut butter cookie throw down....hope to seeya then!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baking Friday - Bread # 9....

...calling in sick!

I'm still coughing and sound like a non-sexy Lauren Bacall who has been smoking 12 packs a day for the last 35 years, so I decided that I will hold off baking Bread # 9 until next week with our Cookie # 9.

Which is NOT to say that I didn't have a plan in place.  I even had two plans in place!

Plan # 1 - National Cheeseburger Day Thursday 9/18
I was gonna make cheeseburger sliders - some using this onion buns recipe as the foil for some pizza sliders and some using my standard honey wheat roll recipe for some jalapeno burgers.  Doesn't that sound yummy and perfect for football season?

Since that seemed a bit aggressive (after I got sick), I took a look at another idea.

Plan # 2 - Checkers Day Tuesday 9/23
I was gonna make muffins and serve them on a homemade checker "board" made of napkins and/or crepe paper.  I was going to make some poppy seed muffins (white) and some chocolate breakfast muffins (black) for "playing" and some blueberry muffins for "eating"!  Doesn't that sound fun?

But alas....I am coughing.  So folks would probably prefer not to eat anything I've baked anyway.  A soon as they heard me talking, they would politely carry off their slider or their muffin and toss it into the nearest trash can as if their very life depended on it - and I couldn't blame them!

So what to to next week?  Sliders?  Or Muffins?  Which one would go best with next week's cookie?

Ah...the big questions of life.  Excuse me while I mean think over it...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Friday Night was K-man Night!

How was your weekend?  Most of ours was occupied with me alternating between my best Edith Ann interpretation or Lauren Bacall voice and Dr. G pumping Vitamin C down me.

BUT!  Friday night?  Friday night made our weekend!  We got to spend it with this handsome fellow!
Some stories seem to just be told best with pictures and captions.  For example...this one I captioned as "Too cute to eat."

Or we have...
Deep conversation.

A common occurrence with 2-and-1/2 year olds.

What do you think of that Grandpa?

Sometimes Grandpas aren't sure what else to say except, "Shall we pray?"

After eating, we HAD to go to the play area!  K-man talked a LOT about the car in the play area, but it was up high, at the end of a tube.  K-man climbed up to the top, but we couldn't quite conquer the tube or the car.  But that's ok.  He's only 2-and-1/2 after all.  He doesn't have to conquer the car just yet.  Some things can easily wait until you're 3-and-1/2.

I can spin this fast, Grandpa!

Let's see what's over here, Grandpa!

Let's be turtles, Grandpa!

Then we went to Toys R Us...(you'll just have to turn that R around in your own mind...I don't have a backwards R key on my laptop.  Sorry.)

I will help you plan for Christmas, Grandpa!

Making new friends over Thomas. Thomas is good for that.

Me and my new friend could play for hours and hours!

Grandpa can play for hours and hours, too!

Over the bridge....I think I can, I think I can.  I think I can...

But then it was time to head back to the hotel for bedtime, but not before about 10 - 15 minutes of playtime over the only toy that K-man said, "I take this home" over.  
Like that, Grandpa?  Yes, like this, little man.

K-man was a very good boy.  We set a timer for when bedtime play would be over, and he helped to put the toys away without fussing and then climbed into bed.  We read two books, and said prayers, and then Grandpa told 3 more stories before K-man told a story about a fire truck!  I think we did say that it was time for sleep and no more stories, but he didn't fuss about that.  He simply closed his eyes and went straight to sleep.

And that makes the end of our story time.  Good night!