Well, thankfully the summer has gotten a little bit more relaxed. I’ve had a little bit of time to try some new things that I’m happy to share with you. Let’s start with the food!
I wonder if there is anybody who has never tried what I call a skillet cookie. I’ve heard the called by many other names, No-Bake Oatmeal cookies, Chocolate and Peanut Butter No-Bakes, etc; but my family has always called them skillet cookies. In case you have somehow managed to miss them, I will include the recipe below. I highly suggest you make them as soon as you can. They taste amazing and are always a hit.
Skillet Cookies (Recipe from my mom, but I think most people have a version in their repertoire.)
2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. cocoa
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. quick-cooking oats
1. Mix sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter in a large skillet. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 min. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients (peanut butter, vanilla, and oats). Drop by teaspoonfuls (mine always turn out like ladle-fuls) onto waxed paper. Let cool and harden.
They are certainly one of my favorites. During this past week, I remembered a new item that I got to try and fell in love with. I had a coupon for Wheat Thins Crunch Stix. I got them in Honey Wheat, and they disappeared the same night that I opened them. Besides the obvious crunch factor, they have the sweet/savory flavor of a regular wheat thin with extra salt. It made them irresistible. I don’t know if I’ll buy them often (bad for my diet), but I will enjoy them when I do.
Over the past week and a half, I also heard a wonderful idea that I can’t believe I haven’t thought of before. The next time you make s’mores, use Reese’s peanut butter cups for the chocolate. I’ve put peanut butter on the s’mores before, but somehow I didn’t think of this. I’m very excited about the idea, and I hope to try it very soon. (Update: I’ve finally tried s’mores with Reese’s. They are delicious, but I feel like you only taste the peanut butter in the middle bites. I think you could get a better pb to chocolate ratio if you used regular chocolate pieces and smeared the graham cracker with peanut butter!)
This past week, my best friend and I decided to celebrate Christmas in July. We watched a Christmas movie, tried a new cookie recipe, and had a wonderful time. For dinner we had a “Christmas Quiche,” which was just a quiche made with asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes (red and green!).
We made it just like the last one I told you about, and enjoyed it just as much. We also made a new (to us) Christmas cookie called Rugelach. Though we did enjoy them, they was very messy, and the dough was very finicky. I would love to make it again, but the next time I will probably turn it into a tassie (mini tart baked in a mini muffin pan) instead of a cookie. What I did love was the flavor. Since the dough is divided in two parts, we used two different jams. We used a fig jam on one and gingerbread butter on the other. They were both very yummy, but I feel like too much leaked out, and the flavor didn’t come through strong enough. They were both very good, but I might try raspberry next time for a stronger flavor.
Rugelach (from the wonderful book, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
For the Dough:
4 oz. (not softened) cream cheese, cut in 4 pieces
1/2 c. (not softened) butter, cut in 4 pieces
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
For the filling:
2/3 c. jelly or marmalade
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped nuts
1/4 c. dried currants (or other dried fruit)
4 oz. mini bittersweet chocolate chips
For the glaze:
1 tsp. cold water
2 tbsp. sugar
1. Let the butter and cream cheese rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Put the flour and salt in the food processor, scatter the butter and cream cheese over them, and pulse for 6-10 times. Process, scraping down the bowl’s sides often, just til the dough forms large curds – don’t work so long that it forms a ball.
2. Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them at least 2 hours.
3. Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat til it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 11-12 in. circle. Brush the jam over the dough and sprinkle it with half the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts, currants, and chocolate chips. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press it into the dough.
5. Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into 16 wedges. Roll the dough into crescents and arrange them on a baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies. (If your dough is being difficult, try chilling it before rolling the crescents up.) Repeat with the remaining ingredients, and refrigerate the cookies at least 30 minutes before cooking.
6. Position your oven racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the egg and water together and brush over the rugelach, sprinkle with the sugar.
7. Bake the cookies for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, til they’re puffed and golden. Cool them on wire racks.
During the past week, I got to finish another fun BBC show called Wives and Daughters. The book it’s based on was written by the same person who wrote the story for Cranford which I told you about a few months ago.
The last thing I wanted to share was a few quotes from the latest C.S. Lewis book that I read, The Problem of Pain. There was a lot that I disagreed with in the book, but there were still some lines that really stood out to me. In this book, Lewis addresses a question that many people have, “How could a good and loving God let people suffer?” I will not go into the details of the answer he gives, but just share the parts that spoke to me.
“What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.” To me this says that what we currently call happiness will pale in comparison to the true happiness we find when we fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.
In a chapter discussing human wickedness, Lewis says that people in his day (and imagine how much more now) faced an extra hurdle in preaching the gospel that people in Bible times didn’t have, that people no longer believe that they are sinners. Lewis puts it this way, “Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis–in itself very bad news–before it can win a hearing for the cure.”
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
The next three quotes, to me, answer many of the questions that people have about the purpose of suffering. The first says, “Suffering is not good in itself: What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” He also explains how God can use evil people to work His will: “Now the fact that God can make complex good out of simple evil does not excuse–though by mercy it may save–those who do the simple evil. And this distinction is central. Offences must come, but woe to those by whom they come; sins do cause grace to abound, but we must not make that an excuse for continuing to sin. The crucifixion itself is the best, as well as the worst, of all historical events, but the role of Judas remains simply evil.” He goes on a little further to say, “For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”
The last quote is something that I’ve never been able to put into words, but that made so much sense when I read it. It’s like Lewis put into words what I’ve always felt but couldn’t express.
“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw–but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction, which the others are curiously ignorant of–something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it–tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest–if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself–you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for’. We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”
I hope you get something out of this like I did. Have a great week, and we’ll chat soon.