Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bake Therapy

Bake therapy.  The amount of eggs that have flown in and out of this kitchen in the last weeks, insane amounts of butter, flour and sugar: bake therapy has overtaken my life.  I think at this point it might actually be economical to get some chickens and turn hipster.  I already have flannel shirts, it could work for me.  My cousin's chickens lay 4 eggs a day.  Thats enough for two batches of cookies a day or a batch of Shawn Taylor's favorite brownies.

Bake therapy is my go-to in times of stress.  Last Sunday? My friend Danielle invited me to bake and within 3 hours, we had made gooey chocolate cookies, carrot cake cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and banana chocolate chip muffins.  She didn't know what to do with me. Yesterday? 3 hours resulted in caramel apple spice cookies, cranberry salsa, prepping a pumpkin pie baked oatmeal and sweet potato crisps. 

I have been looking for any and every excuse to bake recently.  So I love the fact that it is Thanksgiving and there are lots of willing recipients of delicious fall treats.  So, what do I do? I invite all of my friends over for Friendsgiving on Sunday.  There will definitely be a repeat event next year.  I decided to take a break from my massive baking sessions and spent the last week pouring over recipe books and food blogs to make the perfect meal.  Theme: Southwestern Thanksgiving.  Challenge: Take all of the ingredients of thanksgiving and give them a southwestern twist.

It all started with the one recipe I failed to document, turkey cranberry quesadillas. I can't even tell you about how they tasted but I can tell you that people were delightfully surprised. You all will have left overs.  Make these.

Next? On to the carrots.  Chili Roasted Carrots.  Yeah. They were delish.  Had the leftovers today for lunch.  I still vote delish.

The mashed potatos were by far the hardest recipe to choose.  Turns out people like mashed potatos and adding lots of crazy stuff to them.  I guess it is the land of meat and potato lovers.  And I guess I shouldn't really be shocked since people are even doing things like adding bacon to milkshakes.  Chipotle roasted corn mashed potatos won the recipe battle.  Buuuut I am confessing here that I added sour cream to the recipe.  I also confess that I do not feel guilty because I didn't eat any.  I often make dishes with all the bells, whistles and extra calories when I know it is a recipe I won't eat.  So, sour cream happened. And now you know, for my friends? I don't cut calories.  You are worth every one of them. 

So with all of these trial recipes (which I question now why I didn't throw in an old faithful to make sure I at least had one good thing to eat at my Friendsgiving), this recipe was my favorite.  Squash Stuffed Roasted Poblano Peppers. Oh. Wow. They were delicious.  This will definitely be a repeat recipe.

Green beans are traditional at any Thanksgiving dinner.  Most often they are in the form of a green bean cassarole.  I really dislike green bean cassorole however.  I feel like each poor little green bean is screaming from the cream of mushroom soup saying "Help me! Get me out of this sad excuse of a claimed serving of vegetables."  I need crisp. I need fresh.  This recipe is much more that.  I was a happy girl crunching into one of these beans.

I threw in some turkey buscuits even though they are really just Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits, cut up and made into the shape of a turkey, with some of my pumpkin butter.  They were gobbled up by two little munchkins named Ty and Ryan who came to the feast.

It ended all with a pumpkin parfait. THIS was the recipe I was waiting for.  You see, generally I am content to nibble away in my rabbit food style at fruits and veggies, but then pumpkin happens and my cravings overtake my life.  I. love. pumpkin.  Can I get a witness?  (I don't actually know the appropriate time to use that phrase, it felt appropriate so I typed it.  I apologize for misuse of the English language if it occured.)

So, bake therapy.  Turns out there are some more delicious recipes out there, I need to get me some chickens, I need a sponsor for my baking addiction and most importantly I need to just face my anxieties, rolling pin in hand and take what the Lord is throwing at me.  Uncertainty is overwhelming but it compels me to trust in God and proclaim His sovereignty over my life. Uncertainty makes my heart race, my jaw tighten, my nights sleepless, and my free moments spent baking for the masses but slowly God is letting me release that grip and surrender my plans, my dreams, my desires.   He knows what's up when I don't and for that I am grateful. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ABC, 123

The start of my endeavors in the culinary world began here.  Cranberry Sauce.  Every Thanksgiving, since I was seven, I was in charge of the cranberry sauce.  1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 bag of cranberries.  I will forever have that etched into my memory.  I think if I ever suffered an illness or injury that resulted in a loss of memory, I could still make cranberry sauce.  Thanksgiving, for this reason is the height of my baking season.  I. love. fall. food.  Pumpkin? Cranberries? Apples? Can it get any better?  The answer is no.  (That was not really a rhetorical question or one where you had the option of disagreeing with me.  It's my blog people.)  So today I get to go to a pumpkin fest, where we cook and share fall recipes.  I chose pumpkin butter, spiced apple drop cookies and this cranberry upside-down cake that I found from Browneyedbaker.  The cranberries were a tribute to my roots, a reminder of who I am, what has made me, me.

It began with a VERY well buttered spring-form pan (2 tablespoons if you really want to know), a layer of 1/2 cups sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon allspice.  Over all that? Cranberries.  Oh yeah baby!

Then? Some batter.  I mixed 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons of butter, 1 egg, 1/2 cup of milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla.  You know the drill, sugar and butter, then wet (minus milk), then dry, then milk.

Mixed and poured on top.  Confession?  At this point, I looked at the batter and thought, there is noooo way this is gonna be enough.  Feeling too lazy to make more, this was not going to be good. But...

Guess what? It was enough! I know I had you all worried.  I apologize for the anxiety I may have caused. If you were truly traumatized, I will make you an apologetic cranberry upside-down cake. Happy?

350 degrees and 35 minutes later? Ta-da! Oh man, I love fall! P.S. did you know that until this year I claimed summer as my favorite season?  True story! But then I realized that the fall foods, scarves and boots really made fall my favorite season and I had been denying myself claim to the best season ever. I. love. fall. 

O.K., so remember in the beginning of this blog when I was getting all sentimental over cranberries and the ooshy-gooshy back to my roots?  Well here is why:  this week I have been baking a lot and thinking a lot.  Still as unaware of the next steps on this path of mine, I was drawn back to the basics.  The basics of God's love for us, God's plan for our lives, God's goodness and the sweet blessing of His provision.  So often, the uncertainties of life draw us back to those simple truths that roll off our tongues in the good seasons without a second thought and they sound so much bigger.  To grasp these "simple" truths in these times seems difficult.  I am grateful however, that these are ingrained in my memory much like the cranberry sauce recipe.  God does love us.  God does have a plan for our lives.  God is good. God provides. 

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him." Psalm 34:8

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From Scratch

I have been blessed with an incredible chapter on this journey uncharted.  The map from here is unknown but I am hopeful and trusting in a God who loves with a love that is furious as my man, Jeremy Riddle sings, a God who knows the deep desires of my heart and delights in blessing me. So I'm waiting in faith for what is to come. 

This is my blank slate. My canvas.  How about a devil's chocolate cake canvas?  Typical me, when I am in need of deep processing and meditation, I have some bake therapy.  Today, the therapy was at my summer camp and my victims were two unsuspecting user groups.  Group 1: 25 women who traveled all the way to camp to quilt.  Yeah, that's right. Quilt.  For the record, these people mean business!  I walked by at 12 pm, there were people quilting.  On my way to work at 6:30, quilting.  I would like you to know that I value sleep very little, buuuut I would definitely choose sleep over a quilt. 

So naturally, a quilter needs a cake with a quilt on it.  If all quilts involved caramel and chocolate, I might just change my mind about quilting.

A layered quilt cake.  Betcha can't do that on a sewing machine! Feeling accomplished and also slightly tempted to finally dig into one of my creations, it was time to move on.  Group 2? Nothing like group one.  Try 90 crazy high schoolers and their youth leaders (who pretty much act like high schoolers by profession) at a Harry Potter themed retreat. 

So, I decide these lovely youth need a piped frosting creation.  I regretted this decision about this far into the piping project.  I contemplated other hobbies, but then remembered that other hobbies were things like quilting and sports that require coordination I do not have so I kept piping.

End result? The monster book from Harry Potter.  Eyes? Check! Bookmark tongue? Check! A massive amount of sugar on top to send these kiddos into a sugar coma as they consume these along with the pumpkin pasties and butterbeer? Double check.  Seriously people, butterbeer is cream soda with butter, brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, and a few other things all topped with a dollop of whipped cream.  Sugar rush inevitable.  Also convincing me that if you could develop Diabetes over night, this would do it for you.

Piping.  Not something I will ever do again to this degree on a cake of this size.  Bad life choice.  But its so fluffy (It's so fluffy, I'm gonna dieeee!)! So the perfectionist in me desiring a wonderfully fluffy monster cake was glad for the piping (while my hands were not). Details.

So, now at the end of the day, I now sit here.  I am wishing my life canvas were as complete as my cake canvas because the unknown is not always a comfortable place to be.  But I relieved to know there is an end, there is a plan, and a God who knows whats up when I don't.

"And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail." Isaiah 58:11