Wednesday, December 19, 2012

There are some things money can't buy, for everything else? There's oatmeal.

I don't know how you are, but I typically find that healthy treats end up being much more unhealthy than the desserts with no redeeming qualities.  If it has something like flax seed or oatmeal, it is easily justified in my as a health food and I finish half a batch by myself.  Where as if I consume one bite of some chocolate-y butter-y concoction results in an immediate trip to the gym and salads for the following 3 meals.  I feel no guilt in downing mass quantities of my dessert when guised as healthy with a little oatmeal to counteract the butter and sugar that still remain in great quantity. 

So with the cookies I made, while oatmeal was a part of the equation, so were 2 cups of butter and 4 cups of sugar.  This is not something that I can justify in good conscience as a health food, but I sure do trick my mind into believing it is so. So I hereby claim these delightful pumpkin oatmeal cookies no exception to the trickery.  You too can claim them as a health food as I do, just don't ask for a doctor's opinion or a dietitians- they will disagree...

Besides the fact that these cookies were oh-so-healthy (kinda-sorta) they were the first Christmas cookie of the season.  Magic finally began!  Usually this process starts a lot earlier, but I was busy celebrating a pretty stellar union of my high school best friend to her man, so cookie creation was delayed. 

Since these cookies were the first of the season, I decided consumption was necessary.  I had to try one or six...  (I must admit I did enjoy these a lot.)  I justified it by the oatmeal and ignored all of the other not-so-healthy ingredients.  I pretended like I didn't add as much butter and sugar as I really had and clung to that oatmeal-is-an-ingredient-so-it's-healthy for dear life.  The oatmeal was my golden ticket to a delightfully sweet Christmas treat.  The cookie may be chalk-full of butter and sugar but it was also full of oatmeal.  The oatmeal allowed me to feel okay about all of the not-so-diet-conscious counterparts that existed in the recipe.  I could have admited that it is not a healthy cookie if I really studied the ratio of healthy to non-healthy ingredients, but sometimes you have just got to claim that oatmeal and believe in the end that health will prevail.

I feel this is kind of true about life.  Events of late, the shootings, wars, kidnappings and all of those other unexplainable, irredeemable events being splashed around the news, have made it hard to have faith in our world.    I am fairly certain this saying will never be adopted by anyone, but I say in these situations that you have got to cling to the oatmeal.  It is easy to remember the destructive things. The things that ruin us and make us struggle to achieve our end goal.  In the midst of many gut-wrenching awful things that are happening every day, I want to challenge us to seek the little glimmers of hope fighting their way to the top.  There may be a whole lot of broken things about our society, but there is still good.  Don't believe me? Kids at our school just collected over 1500 cans to go to our local food bank.  Our students are running at recess to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy and one student decided to give her whole 20 dollars of savings to help our cause.  In our title-1 school, companies have come together to make sure that 40 of our  families have a fancy dinner and presents to give their children for the holidays.  A third grade class collected a big box full of pajamas to send to the families affected by the hurricane. This is just in one school. One small community. And this is not an exception.  Instead of dwelling on the tragic, let's keep pouring our energy into these endeavors and encourage those who are trying to bring light to dark places.  They are all around us and especially in this holiday season.  Let's gather together and encourage our children to walk in these ways.  Sometimes the smallest of voices can be heard the clearest and their songs for justice can sound the sweetest.  Show them the path to a brighter tomorrow.  Take hope in their efforts and remember the words of Frederick Douglas, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."  Mixed in with all the junk, there is still oatmeal!  There is still light! There is still hope!

"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." Proverbs 22:6

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's like 3.141592653589793 only delicious.

I am really curious about who came up with the saying "it's as easy as pie." Baking a pie is intimidating.  The dough must be the perfect mixture to ensure a light and flaky texture. Not too dry.  Not too moist. You must puncture the bottom to ensure a lack of bubbling, fold the crust in a perfect sort of way, cross your fingers that the crust doesn't burn and that the middle cooks through.  Yeah "easy as pie?" is hard.  Playing the pie game to make 11 pies to split between two households Thanksgivings? Hard.  Limiting yourself to only a few kinds of pies rather than experimenting with each separate pie? Double hard.  Keeping the integrity and deliciousness of pies 10 and 11 after making pies for so long.  Triple hard.  Maybe the "easy as pie" piece comes from eating them.  They certainly are easier to consume than other things.  The steps to eat a pie are simple: 1. Serve a slice on a plate. 2. Cover the entire surface of the pie with whipped cream. 3. Eat the whipped cream off the top.  4. Cover with more whipped cream because your pie is now naked again.  5.  Eat pie.  Yeah that's pretty easy and it works on any pie.

Pecan pie? Yup.

Pumpkin pie? Yup.

Mincemeat pie? Yup.

They all follow the same steps for consumption.  Easy as pie. 

Well, thankfully pie season is short lived and so my baking anxiety can remain low.  Thanksgiving is quickly bypassed by Christmas and masses of cookies will roll in and out of my kitchen.  I would like to say that I am already well into my baking season (being that it is the 11th of December), but a flooded kitchen can cramp a girl's style.  I have even prepped with 5 pounds of butter that are currently chillin in my fridge, but they have remained untouched as I have awaited the kitchen to be returned to it's usable state. But fear not.  I report that as of today I deem it usable and I plan on using every spare second at home baking up a storm.  I will forget all of the store-bought items I had to bring to events in the mean time.  The past is the past today is the present, and this present will be all home-made.  I cannot WAIT!
So, now that I have mentioned that I will be baking masses of cookies, my future cookies are currently in search of homes.  They will best be used in homes of people who do not guilt me for making them gain 10 pounds or do and show up to my Zumba fitness classes.  I will be accepting applications from now until Christmas.  You are in charge of crafting the application, as I will be creating masses of sweet treats and too busy to actually write one.  But there you go.  Now you have your chance to stake a claim. 
I would like to make a plea for my cause.  Taking my cookies has now become your necessity because I cannot eat them all.  They have been pinned to my pinboard therefore they cannot go unbaked.  I cannot consume them all because I am only one person and if I did then I would lose all of my credibility as a Zumba instructor.  Can you imagine a fitness instructor gaining all kinds of weight and claiming that their program was effective?  Yeah...not going to convince a whole lot of people.  But YOU on the other hand could eat them, then come to my Zumba fitness class and be an incredible success story and get all the fame and glory.  It is a win-win for all involved.  So, go ahead, say you want some. They will come your way. You will enjoy.  I will enjoy you enjoying.  Life will be good.  One first world problem will have been resolved. You will have helped me resolve mine, now if we could only solve the rest...
So. many. problems. 
Problems. Whether big or small.  First world or truly tragic.  Prime baking season (aka Christmas) is the same prime season for heightened awareness of the things we lack both materially and relationally.  Feelings of sadness, anger, or loneliness are often amplified.  You might be in the midst of it, or you might be in a season of blessing.  As we enter this special but often challenging season a greater awareness of our current state.  Let us remember especially during this time to love our neighbor and to be acutely aware of their struggles and needs.  If a cookie tray of mine comes your way, know that at least one of those cookies is reserved for sharing.  Never were we promised a life void of struggles but we were promised an ever-present God in time of need and we were challenged as the body of Christ to love our neighbor and to take care of the widows and orphans.  So, tis the season!  Let's spread some love.
"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27