Another Cookie to Bake the Season Bright

The smell of cookies baking, the extra warmth from the oven, and the comfort of a sweet treat, lots of reasons to mix up another batch of cookies. This time it is the Peanut Butter Cookie, which I have reduced to a small batch bake for those of us seeking a small indulgence rather than a mountain of cookies. If you do need a larger batch, no worries, this recipe is very simple to multiply when more than two dozen nutty delights are needed.

Important Tip:

Not all peanut butter is made the same. The peanut butter made in the U.S.A. is a sweeter cousin to the peanut butter made elsewhere. It is perfect for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and other peanut butter sweet treats. So if you are not in the United States, see if you can source some from the international section of your grocery store.

Butterscotch Snickerdoodle – A Crisp Cookie

Baking Tip of the Season

If you don’t already have mini ice cream/cookie scoop in your kitchen, treat yourself to one of two. They are a time saver when working with a wet cookie dough or when trying for consistent-sized cookies. I prefer the small one often used as a melon baller for this recipe (1/2 tablespoon). The cookies with spread during baking so a little dough goes a long way.

A Vlogmas Spin-a-long with a Sweet Treat at the End

Recipe of Comfort and Joy

The countdown to Christmas is fully underway. This year for Vlogmas, a YouTuber’s countdown, I decided to find a way to take a break from the hectic pace of Christmas, at least for a few moments each day.

With that goal in mind, each day I am spinning a small bundle of fiber, enjoying a tiny chocolate treat, and choosing a rejuvenating suggestion from a jar I filled with suggestions back before Vlogmas began. So far in the first days of December, I have crafted with beads, made a savory treat, tried a new embroidery design, and started reading a new book. Today when I withdrew the small folded paper from the jar, I was delighted to see that it suggested I make a sweet treat. I’ve been looking forward to this suggestion appearing because I have a brownie recipe I have been wanting to share.

A few months back during the heat of summer, I invested in a small convection oven, marketed as an air fryer, it really is just a fancy toaster oven, but with excellent versatility that past toasters lacked. There didn’t seem much sense in heating up the house by using the large oven during the summer months, now that my husband and I are empty-nesters again. A smaller oven would heat up the house less and would correspond with our smaller food preparation needs. It was the perfect solution with just one hurdle to cross – smaller batch recipes. Cooking, and especially baking, just for two is not the easiest thing to accomplish. Most recipes are designed for feeding 4-6 people. Cakes and pies are especially difficult. The humidity and the heat of Virginia makes sweets treats fuzz up quite quickly unless they are refrigerated, and there is nothing that makes a crisp pastry go limp like refrigeration.

So with new mini-oven and a goal to make smaller portions of favorite foods, I embarked on an Autumn of culinary experimentation. In my previous blog, I share some of my Autumn favorites, but now the temperature have turned cold chocolate is what is needed.

After years of a love-hate relationship with the classic American dessert, the Brownie, I have finally figured out a recipe both my husband and I will consume with joy. It has both crisp bits and gooey bits, and is small enough to bake in an 8″ x 8″ (200mmx200mm) baking pan that fits just perfectly in my Instant Vortex Air Fryer. I am sure the recipe would also work in a regular oven or full-sized convection oven with just the minimal baking time/temperature adjustments.

I hope you find joy in this basic, but tasty comfort food.

Happy Holidays

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If you choose to take a few moments and watch my Vlogmas video, you will also hear how I stumbled upon a second chocolate delight when a foggy brain necessitated making a second dessert.

By simply adding extra sour cream (about 3 tablespoons total) and steaming it in a pressure cooker for 60 minutes, rather than having a Brownie, you will have a Chocolate Steamed Pudding instead. If you have never made a cake in a pressure cooker, I highly recommend looking up Instant Pot recipes by Amy & Jacky at https://www.pressurecookrecipes.com/

The Story of my Steamed Pudding

Saith Me: Knowing Truth

The wise speak and quote truth, often universal truth that transcends time or has evolved due to time.

The manipulative misquotes, takes soundbites out of context, and re-writes the words of the wise for the purpose of self-interest.

Those seeking to become wise will spend time evaluating a source for its honesty, clarity, and truth. Those seeking to be led will simply believe that which confirms their desired state of being whether it is truth or falsehood.

Both will believe they have found truth, but only one will know that they have.

In Search of Truth: The Journey

The journey of life can lead us to the certainty of the truths we seek, but only if we avoid the pitfalls that can come due to expectation.

Expectation can often be the biggest roadblock faced on any journey. Expectation can even scuttle a journey before it begins. Remember, expectation is only a belief in something, whereas, it is on the journey that certainty can be found.

Truth is both simple and complex – the greatest of all paradoxes. Truth is more than just a belief, it relies on a preponderance of evidence. Sometimes this evidence has little value or certainty for anyone other than ourselves, but that does not mean the evidence is not valid. It may simply mean that we are seeking a small understanding of something much greater than we are yet ready to perceive.

If we remember that expectation is simply the starting point – the hope, the belief, the dream – and that the journey provides the data, the trial, and the proof, then we should move beyond belief and gain the true knowledge life offers to teach us.

The Things We Remember

As we age, or even just as we get too busy with out lives, there are so many things we forget. There are things we wish we could forget which cling to us with a force that seems unbreakable. Then there are those wonderful things we hope to never forget.

This morning I awoke thinking of something I hope to always remember – a smile. This wasn’t any ordinary smile because the woman of whom the the smile belongs has never been ordinary. When I knew her in person, she was extraordinary; I suspect she still is.

I haven’t seen her in person in nearly 30 years, yet I can still see her smile and hear her laugh as if it was just yesterday we last were together. With the marvels of modern technology, I have seen photos that prove her smile and her exuberance has not diminished over the years. From those photos, it is clear that her family is well accustomed to her smile and laughter.

I don’t know why it was her smile that I saw when I dreamt my last dream of the night. It had been a rough night with unpleasant dreams that I am more that happy to have fade from memory. Upon seeing my friend smile in my dream, I awoke and the unpleasant memories, best forgotten, faded away, replaced by the joy I felt upon seeing her smile.

The Magic is in Me

One of the things I love about hand crafts is that the process of doing the craft reminds us that we are the element of change – we are the magic that transforms one object into something greater than its original state.

On New Year’s Eve we find ourselves hoping there will be some magical force that will change the days ahead into something better than the days of the past. In recent years, it seems we cannot even make it through a full week into the new year without having this hope diminished.

When we realize the magic is inside our own selves, then we begin to understand that the hope for a better new year is a hope that can be achieved.


Do You Give Back?

Just over 30 years ago, around the holiday season, an older gentleman asked me the question, “What do you do to give back to the community?” The question gave me pause, and caused me discomfort. I was a college student at the time with no excess finances to share. For a bit of time I felt pretty low because I felt I had no answer to give… then I began to remember.

I have always been a person who gives of their time and talents, but I didn’t realize until that year how much society values some contributions more greatly than others. Some service is valued as being better than other service, not because of the needs being served, but because of how the service conforms with a perception of what the provider considers valuable. Even the notion of charity seems to have a hierarchy, with some charitable acts being considered more valuable than others, not due to needs being met, but rather with how the charity is viewed by the peers of the one giving the charity.

Three decades have passed since the question was asked of me, and I find myself pondering the sad reality that for many (including the gentleman who asked the question) service and charity is measured by a monetary value rather than a kindness value. There is no rule that says that the two values cannot coexist, but there is a general notion that if the monetary is given the kindness is not necessary.

Consistently giving of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, and yes, even of our monetary surplus when such exists, is how we give back to society, and thereby contribute to a better society in which to live.

When we give with a focus on the kindness value, we need not feel discomfort when asked, “Do you give back?”