Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Romans 15:13 MInistry: Week #6

Today a thought dawned on me...I skipped a week. Not a week of baking, but a week of posting about the baking! I neglected to inform you of Romans 15:13 ministry's latest baking blessing. So now it is time to do some apologizing and backtracking.
Last week I did not abandon my baking ministry. I baked on Sunday afternoon in preparation for Monday morning's Women's Connection Bible study. I decided to try out a new recipe, frosted banana bars. Once again I found banana inspiration while looking at my kitchen counter.
I am convinced that no one goes to the store to buy bananas that they intend to bake with. We all buy bananas expecting to eat them in a fruit salad or the old fashioned way, hand held and peeled, one bite at a time. But, alas, there always seem to be those few neglected bananas that spoil before they can be enjoyed as a snack in their pure, unbaked state. Those forgotten bananas, riddled with brown spots, become the perfect addition to a culinary adventure, especially a culinary adventure that includes lots of sugar and cream cheese frosting.
Enter: frosted banana bars.
Last weekend gazing at rotting bananas I heard them call out, begging to be baked. And so I heeded the call from my counter and preheated the oven. Thirty minutes later my bars were perfectly browning and smelling of caramelized banana. The scent alone said, "yum." With the addition of cream cheese frosting the bars were complete and a hit, too. They were a perfect accompaniment to a morning cup of coffee. And, to top of their sweet goodness, they could almost be called healthy. After all they did contain a fruit!

The creation of the banana bars got me to thinking about making the most out of the gifts and talents each of us have been given. Bananas are a great picture of the 1 Peter 4:10 command: "...use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." 
So, if God gives you bananas, use bananas. If God gives you a love for baking, then use baking. If God gives you a love for teaching, then use teaching. There isn't a one size fits all ministry but there is a one size fits all God. 
Jesus died for all and His gospel is for all but how He will use each of us to spread His message of salvation will be unique. He distributes different talents to different people so that He can use each of us in a unique, individualized way to further His kingdom.
Maybe you survey your life, abilities and talents and come up short, wondering what you have to offer as a ministry or service to God's kingdom. Friend, I assure you that God has blessed you with unique gifts that He wants to use to spread His Gospel. Just look at it this way, if He can use rotten bananas then He can use you. Look past the limitations you see and allow God to show you how He can use what little we have to offer to make much of Him. He'll do it with bananas, He'll do with whatever we give Him if we give it wholeheartedly and in complete surrender. 

Once again this week's baking ministry provided another unexpected lesson. God can use the gifts you and I have been given, no matter how great or how miniscule, to bless and serve others. And what's more, He loves to use us to bless others. It is a command He gives us and a duty He has entrusted to us. We are to be His hands and feet, using whatever we have been given to make much of the magnificent name of Jesus.

So use whatever you have on hand to spread the message of Christ's love to the lost, hurting and hungry. And if you have rotting bananas then I suggest you try out these banana bars.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy birthday, Mom {The Perfect Yellow Cake}

Baking on the fritz has been off the fritz for some time now. My baking has diminished in frequency and my posting has become almost nonexistent. Just because I haven't written doesn't mean I haven't been baking. In fact, I baked up the perfect yellow cake just a few days ago. I know, I know....the perfect cake and I didn't even share the recipe? Don't fear, the world's best from scratch yellow birthday cake is about to follow. I can't take one ounce of credit for the creation of this cake recipe (I didn't even tweak a thing, not even the amount of vanilla extract). And I can't take an ounce of credit for the birthday in which was celebrated. That blessed day is all thanks to God who smiled down on the earth sixty six years ago when He gave life to my Mom.
October 16 is my Mom's birthday. I forget most everyone's birthdays now a days. I have a lot of them to remember - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. But I never forget my Mom's birthday. It is a day I am immensely thankful for because my Mom is my absolute best friend in the entire world. If I were into "BFF" bracelets then my Mom and I would each be sporting them. You know the kind I'm talking about. Each necklace or bracelet has half of a heart and when you put the two halves together you get a whole. The two friends together are "besties". This is the jewelry of elementary school but a principle that lasts a whole lot longer. Try forever.
For as long as I can remember my Mom has been my most faithful companion. Her steadfast love and endless care for me dates back to before I was born. She started pouring out her love for me while I was in the womb and she's never quit. She is the greatest blessing in my life.
It may seem a bit biased to call my Mom the best in the world but I have my reasons for such claims. She is level headed, wise, funny, giving, generous and selfless. It doesn't matter how much time we spend together she never runs out of things to say. She is always up for an outing and loves to wander and explore. Yet she also loves a relaxing game of Scrabble where no one keeps score. She laughs at Everybody Loves Raymond even if she's seen the episode ten times already. And she cries nearly every time she gives a prayer request or praise report in church.
Quite simply my Mom brings with her an ease and comfort everywhere she goes. If Mom is there then love is there, too. She is the glue that holds our family together. She has created a home that is sweet and inviting and always welcomes you with open arms.
On my Mom's birthday I wanted to make her the perfect cake because she is the perfect Mom for me. I read lots of cake reviews. I didn't want to bake a bomb. Finally I settled on a cake that required eight egg yokes - eight! I figured with that many egg yokes it had to be good. And I was right.
My Mom devoured more pieces of cake then she would like me to share so I will keep that number top secret (a little post-birthday present for her). Let's just say the cake was a home run, slam dunk, hit of a birthday cake. I give all my thanks to David who (according to AllRecipes) claims the fame this cake deserves.
If you want to celebrate your Mom with a yellow cake that will knock her socks off and show her how much you love her (because we all know that's exactly what a good cake says to a dessert loving Mom) then I suggest David's Yellow Cake. Save the egg whites and make an omelet. Or feed them to your dog. Either way the cake will be a hit and the egg whites will go to good use.
To top off your cake I suggest a chocolate cream cheese frosting. The measurements for my go-to frosting aren't exact. It starts with about a 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 cups confectioners sugar, 3 tablespoons half and half and 2 tablespoons of cream cheese. Have a cup of water handy to smooth out the frosting as you beat it with an electric mixer. When your taste tester deems it perfect you can then frost your cooled cake. Then stick sixty six candles in it and sing a happy birthday to your amazing Mother.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Romans 15:13: Week #5

Another week and another opportunity to bake up a blessing.
Recently I've been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes. The poetic verses lined with the words "for everything there is a season" are well known to any kid that grew up in Sunday school. I've always known that part of Ecclesiastes but have spent very little time reading past those lyrical verses. What I've found in reading past Ecclesiastes three has made my baking ministry an even greater personal blessing.
Ecclesiastes four is about oppression and toil and friendlessness. It doesn't sound very uplifting. At least that's what I thought when I read the heading of the scriptures to follow. But as I read on I started to see past the dark, depressing words at the top of the page. By the time I got to verse nine I was practically joyful! Toiling away for personal satisfaction is meaningless. Envy is meaningless and downright destructive. But working together is good and unity is powerful.
Baking is a way for me to unite with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a way to share in the love of Christ by contributing to a good outside of myself. There is no lasting pleasure in self-gratification but there is eternal blessing in giving, serving and uniting in Christ.
This week as I baked a few classic standby recipes I did so with a renewed joy. Ecclesiastes reminded me that I'm not just baking for the sake of filling stomachs. I'm baking to bless God's cherished children, share in the spreading of Christian fellowship and shine the light of Christ's love. Baking brings me together with my sisters in Christ and for that I am abundantly thankful. Because two is truly better than one, the Bible tells me so.

This week I baked some classic recipes that I've shared with you before. My favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and zucchini muffins (without the walnuts). Bake up a blessing to share with the body of Christ and I'm sure you'll experience the joy of coming together in fellowship that the Bible promises in Ecclesiastes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Romans 15:13 Ministry: Week #4

The shortbread crust looked bad...very bad. Not in the least bit appealing.
As I stared at that anemic shortbread bar base for my pecan pie bars I began to have a sinking feeling that these dessert bars were not baking into a delectable treat, like I had hoped. The crust had strange bubbles forming and the edges weren't crisping quite right. They had already been in the oven for their designated twenty minutes. My next step was to pour in my pecan and corn syrup mixture. But I was hesitant. I was leery of wasting precious ingredients on a disaster of a crust.
I pondered how to proceed. To pour the pecan mixture or to start over again on the crust, hold onto the mixture and hope that the second shortbread turned out looking more promising than the first. After thinking on it I decided to pop the shortbread back into the oven for another few minutes and see if they showed any sign of improvement.
Five minutes later and a glimmer of hope was found in those bars. The edges were just starting to brown and the bubbles were less pronounced. I decided to pour in the pecan mixture and hope for the best.
Thirty minutes later the pecan topping had set and the bars were a beautiful brown golden hue. I couldn't believe the transformation they had undergone in the oven. The pale bars were no longer sickly looking. Once cut they revealed a perfectly crisp yet delicate base for a decadent pecan dessert. I was relieved and beyond thrilled to see that what I pulled from the oven was just what I had hoped to create: a Starbucks look alike Pecan Bar. Perfect!
I must admit I was quite surprised at the success of this latest pastry/culinary/dessert adventure. In the midst of the baking process it looked as if failure was inevitable. I really didn't put much stock in the recipe or the future of my pecan bars. I was certain they would be a dessert disaster.
But sometimes when baking, just like in life, the desired outcome can't always been seen in the midst of the process. Sometimes the future of life and the future of our baking experiment looks bleak. We are standing alone with nothing but shortbread that isn't browning quite right and we wonder, "how can this ever turn out?"
It's the story of baking and it is the story of life. In the midst of our journey we can't see the finished product. All we know is the process isn't looking so hot. It doesn't look promising. It looks disconcerting. And we start losing hope that the end result will be anything positive or, in the case of Pecan Pie Bars, tasty.
But these little indulgent dessert bars reminded me to never lose hope in the process. God may have me alone right now, feeling as if the future doesn't hold much promise for a different tomorrow. But in just a blink of an eye God can change everything. In thirty minutes Pecan Pie Bars can go from lifeless shortbread to divine decadence. And with the snap of His fingers God can turn a life upside down and inside out. There is hope in the future. There is excitement and a thrill in the unknown of what God has up ahead. And there is a purpose in every step of the process to get there.

If you decide to bake these Pecan Pie Bars don't be discouraged if you pull the crust from the oven and find that it doesn't look appealing. It isn't done baking yet. They are still in the midst of their culinary journey to the ultimate crunchy, delicate perfection. Give them more time in the oven to complete the process of becoming your perfect base to the perfect Pecan Pie Bar. And don't give up hope on the deliciousness that is baking up in your oven. Even when you can't smell a tantalizing scent or see a golden brown forming on the edges of your crust, something magical might be happening as your bars bake in the oven. Just have patience in the process and keep your eyes set on the promise and hope of the future glory to come.

I baked these Pecan Pie Bars for the lovely ladies at the Women's Connection Ministry. I hope they enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed baking them. If you give them a try I hope you enjoy the process of baking them just as much as the process of devouring them!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cake Day: Sam's Famous Carrot Cake

Yesterday was cake day. And, in many ways, it felt like a good day for cake, especially a cake infused with lots of cinnamon and a little nutmeg. The air outside was blowing, spreading the soft sound of rustling leaves just waiting to change color before they float to the ground blanketing the earth in a sea of browns, oranges and yellow hues. As the day wore on the sky became ominous and gray. Soon rain followed. The whole day just whispered "fall." It started out bright and cloudless and ended in a soggy drizzle. What could be more fall than that?
And so I decided that it was a good day to bake a classic cake that embraces the scents of fall and the colors of leaves. Carrot Cake. And not just any Carrot Cake but "Sam's Famous Carrot Cake."
I found the recipe for this famed cake on, you guessed it, All Recipes. It is my favorite baking source. Not only does it provide a recipe, it gives bakers reviews.
As much as I value the reviews I must admit they can be the most frustrating aspect of All Recipes. Do these reviewers actually use the recipe listed on the webpage? Very few, I suspect, do. Every comment comes with its own unique list of changes, substitutions and alterations made to the original recipe. By the time the commenter has finished their review the recipe is something completely different. Sometimes I wonder if they even ended up with a cake at all! Oil becomes applesauce. Cinnamon meets nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Sugar becomes honey. Regular flour gets exchanged for whole wheat. Buttermilk is nixed for skim instead. You name it, someone has substituted it.
The reviewers might like their particular culinary cake creation but it certainly isn't Sam's, that's for sure.
After doing my routine read through of the reviews I decided that I wanted to remain fundamentally true to Sam's recipe. I will admit to not including raisins in the cake and replacing the walnuts with pecans (I was out of the former). At the suggestion of many reviewers I added a 1/4 tsp of nutmeg to the mix, too. What can I say? I'm a guilty recipe tweaker myself. I just don't talk about it in comment sections!
When it was all said and done my cake was a success. Sam didn't let me down. And I suppose you could say the reviewers didn't let me down, either. Their 1,665 reviews deeming this a 5 star recipe guided me to this cake, putting it high on the list of results for carrot cakes on a Google search. So thank you All Recipes and its reviewers. Once again you came through on pointing me in the direction of a home run of a dessert.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Pippy Love Post

Sometimes life lessons come without a recipe. When they do I tend to post them on Pippy Love.
Click the link for a recipe-free post!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Romans 15:13 Ministry: Week #3 {Pumpkin Bread}

Simple. Sweet. Satisfying. That is exactly what I had in mind for this week's Romans 15:13 Ministry treat when I decided to bake a big batch of Pumpkin Bread.
There is nothing as basic as bread. It represents some of the fundamental tenants of life, especially the Christian life. The Lord is the bread of life. We, His children, are called to be "broken bread". Bread was multiplied by Jesus. Bread is eaten together in unity and fellowship not only in the Bible but even today in churches as an act of communion and obedience.
That is how I decided upon bread. Being the season for all things pumpkin I decided to throw in some fall festive flavor into the mix, too. I clicked around all of my usual blogs for recipe inspiration but every list of ingredients was too complex. They all had too much going on in the dough. Most had chocolate chips. Some had raisins. Others kept the fancy to the top in the form of a glaze. Many recipes called for pecans or walnuts and others called for a swirl of cream cheese or even Nutella. But I didn't want a gussied up pumpkin loaf. I wanted a loaf that would satisfy a desire for something sweet while maintaining the simple integrity of basic bread. 
After clicking in and out of boxes on my computer screen I decided that the internet wasn't going to be my golden ticket to the perfect pumpkin loaf recipe. Over-the-top recipes boasted too many chips and not enough loaf for my liking. So I went back to the basic, a cookbook. And not just any cookbook but the cookbook that every baker and chef undoubtedly has on their shelf, Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
Sure enough, filed under "breads" and then "quick breads" I found the simplest pumpkin loaf ever. Trusting the New Cookbook authority, and the fact that it has stood the test of 15 editions, I didn't even look for reviews online. I simply preheated my oven and opened a can of pumpkin.
The simple recipe calling for lots of flour, sugar, eggs and only one can of pumpkin, yielded three generously sized loaves of bread. They were perfectly golden brown with a tint of orange. They rose just the way every baker prays their bread will rise. And they smelled absolutely divine!
The beauty of this bread is that it didn't need any chocolate or dried fruit or sweet glaze to be satisfying and delicious. The bread's star was pumpkin and that's all it needed. The simplicity of bread paired with the fall's favorite vegetable made these loaves the perfect sweet delivery to the ladies at the Women's Connection Bible study.

My prayer is that the ladies who feasted on those loaves of bread saw the beauty of the baked dough, just like I did. A simple loaf of bread can remind us of how Christ can simplify our lives when we turn our struggles, pain and control over to Him. Don't get me wrong, this life won't always be simple. The world is not without its complications and trials. On this earth, surrounded by humans and sin, sometimes it feels like all that surrounds us are imperfections and trials.
But Christ can simplifying even our messiest of circumstances. When we get back to the basics, turn our lives, problems and complications over to Christ He can do a sweet work of simplification. He can remove our worries, burdens and heartache and fill us with His satisfying Spirit of peace and calm. Even in the midst of this chaotic and upside down world, Christ can step in and put our hearts at rest. It is His work of simplification that makes it all possible. Our Bread of Life, King of Kings and All-Sufficient Savior can turn our lives into a place of refuge even in the midst of the fiercest of storms.
All it takes is getting back to the basics and simply asking Christ to take over, take control and release our complications into His care. And just like a simple Pumpkin Loaf, He will come into our lives and simply satisfy our every need with His Holy Spirit that always hits the perfect sweet spot.

{ Recipe found in Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook}

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cake Day: Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting (AKA Pure Peanut Butter Decedance Cake)

This is the day the Lord made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

That, my dear Baker, is all the inspiration you need to bake a cake. The day you are living in, right here, right now, is made by the Lord. It is beautiful, extraordinary, special and blessed. Why? Because God made it. He brought the sun up. He kept the world rotating on its axis all night long so that this morning you could awaken to a new day designed by the hand of God.

Sometimes, some bakers, wait for a celebration to bake a cake. A birthday, an anniversary, a graduation... but a Monday? How about a day when you get horribly bad news, have an attack of MS or just don't have any plans or excitement on the day's agenda? Is there reason to bake a cake on those days?
I believe there is because I believe the Bible and I want to heed the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16.  "Rejoice always..."
Rejoice.... that's the flour, the sugar, the baking powder and soda, and - in today's cake - the peanut butter. Rejoicing in every circumstance is at the heart of following Christ. It is at the heart of living filled with the Holy Spirit. Rejoicing is a command. It is not an option. It is not a directive given for certain people or certain situations. Rejoicing is forever, for always, for everyone and everything.
Even Mondays.
Even on days when everything goes wrong.
Even on days when the news is bad and the future looks bleak.
Even when we are tired, weak, worn out and sick.
Rejoice in everything.

If you are struggling today, finding it hard to rejoice, then I recommend baking a cake. Yes, a cake on Monday when no one is having a birthday and no one has any big accomplishment to celebrate. Just bake a cake anyways because what you and I are celebrating today is the magnificent God we serve.

I have personally deemed Monday to be "Cake Day" in my baking life. Some people have "Throwback Thursday" and bloggers have "Friday Favorites." Well, I have cake on Monday because there is no better way to start the week then by rejoicing in a new day and a new week made by the Lord.

Today's recipe is a family recipe but I don't think it's a secret, so I'm going to share it with you. If you love all things peanut butter than this cake will be right up your dessert alley!

Peanut Butter Cake
1 3/8 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 pan. 
Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat on medium speed the peanut butter and butter until smooth. Add milk, flour mixture and egg. Mix until just combined. 
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until tester comes out clean (about 30 minutes).
Let cool before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4-1/3 milk (depending on consistency)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Beat on medium-high speed peanut butter and sugar. Slowly add milk and vanilla until desired consistency is reached. Frost cake.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

The name of this post is "Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes" but really it should be called "An Unexpectedly Good Treat."
If you are like me then this combination of fruit, flour and chips all molded into one miniature cake sounds off-putting. Cupcakes should not contain bananas. Or chips for that matter. At least that's what I had always believed until I stumbled upon this recipe. In it I found an odd assortment of ingredients that I didn't believe could work well together in one paper lined muffin tin. But there it was, in black and white, topped with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. I found this recipe in my favorite cookbook, The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook that I keep referring to on this blog. I highly recommend it. Trust me, it's worth the splurge. Each recipe I've tried has been a success and these strange little cupcakes are no exception.
This unexpected recipe with unexpected ingredients actually produced an unexpectadly tasty result. The crumb of the cupcakes was just right thanks to the nontraditional method of preparing the batter with oil and whipped egg whites as opposed to good ol' butter. And the frosting made almost entirely of cream cheese was the perfect balance to the sweet banana of the light and airy cupcake below.
For reasons I can't explain, when baked at 350 degrees for twenty-two minutes, these strange bedfellows of ingredients came together to make perfectly round, perfectly moist cupcakes. I didn't see the success of these cupcakes coming but I am pleased to report that they were not at all an utter disaster - as I had expected.

While delivering these unique cupcakes to my dessert loving loved ones the lesson of the unexpected cupcake dawned on me...
There are sets of life circumstances that I often assume will be bad. I expect sickness, heartache, loneliness and trials to produce negativity in my life. I look at my life's road blocks and detours as things to just get through and survive.
But sometimes all of those circumstances can produce something unexpectedly good.
Joseph is a prime example of horrid circumstances working together for his ultimate good. He was sold into slavery and thrown in prison even though he had done nothing wrong. Most would say that his situation was rotten and unjust. Yet, God has something glorious in mind for Joseph. He took those undesirable circumstances and did something unexpectedly amazing with them and with Joseph.
God used Joseph to prepare Egypt for a coming famine. Through Joseph's interpretation of dreams, God was able to sustain the people of Egypt through years without a harvest. Even Joseph's brothers were spared thanks to the storehouse of food Joseph had set aside.
When Joseph's brothers came to Egypt in search of food they must have been shocked to find their brother, who they sold into slavery years ago, second in command and overseer of the lands of Egypt. Unexpected? You bet!
But Joseph said to his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20).
God took a life that looked as good as dead and did something totally unexpected with it, He used it to save an entire nation. Joseph had been a slave and an inmate, not exactly the pedigree for second in command over a country. But that's how God works, He takes the unexpected and uses it to glorify His name and further His Kingdom.
That's exactly what He did with Joseph and that's exactly what He can still do today in the unexpected circumstances of my life and yours.
Multiple Sclerosis has thrown me a curve ball with the word, "unexpected" written all over it. But I believe in the ability and will of God to do extraordinary things with the unexpected. He can use my MS to bring praise to His name and further His Gospel. I don't know precisely how He plans to do that with my unexpected life just yet but I trust that the plan He has for me is being worked out even now, in the trials and difficulties of my illness.
Unexpected, yes. But good? Most certainly, yes. Even the most unlikely of life's ingredients can come together to make something beautiful. Just like Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Romans 15:13 Ministry: Week #2

I looked up the word joy in the dictionary and found a terrible definition. According to Webster's it is a "feeling of great happiness."
This definition left me feeling joyless so I decided to go back to the root of the word, before the days of Webster, and find what joy is really all about.
Sure enough, there it was, the true meaning of joy: rejoice. It comes from the Latin "gaudere" which means "rejoice." The French turned that into "joie" and the English turned that into joy.
Irma Rombauer turned that into the "Joy of Cooking" but more on that in a minute.

Let's just stick to the simple word joy for just a moment.
There are two ways to look at joy. One, you can look at joy as a thing that happens to you. Or you can look at joy as something you make happen. If you simply look in the library dictionary for guidance on joy you will be hard pressed to have it in abundance in your own life because the joy that is taught by Webster's isn't the kind of joy you can choose, it is the kind of joy that just "happens" to you.
But that isn't true joy.
True joy is rejoicing and rejoicing is a choice. No one has rejoicing happen to them. Rejoicing is a verb. Rejoicing is a decision. Rejoicing is a definitive action taken by a person.
And so is joy.
Joy isn't just a feeling of elation because of good circumstances. That would make joy a response, not a decision. But joy is so much more than a conditional response. It is an unconditional action taken by someone who makes a conscious decision.

That brings us to cooking and baking and the joy in those actions. Just ask Irma, there is joy in cooking. Even in the midst of the Great Depression, on the heels of her husbands suicide, Irma found joy in the kitchen and in the formulating and preparing of a meal. She wrote a cookbook on the subject matter, titled it "JOY of Cooking" and 75 years later it is the best selling cookbook of all time.
She found joy in the kitchen because she decided to cook not because it just happened to her. The joy was a product of a decision to go and grab it off the shelf, mix it in a bowl and bake it in an oven. Her joy was roasted, sauteed and broiled along with her meats and potatoes. Her joy wasn't born out of a happiness of life circumstances but out of a decision to make joy happen.

That joy is available to everyone whether or not they choose to cook or bake or order carry out. Joy is as easy to attain as making a decision. If you find decision making hard then I suppose joy is hard to capture and sustain. But if you can make up your mind to be joyful, to live in a state of rejoicing, the joy will flow abundantly without need for a particular mood or "happiness" to overtake you.

And if you do decide to express your joy in the kitchen then I encourage you to share that joy with others through the blessing of your baking and cooking bounty. When joy is shared it is multiplied. I do believe Irma would have agreed that the more joy - the more cooking, the more baking, the more sharing - the better.

For a treat worthy of sharing I suggest these Glazed Pumpkin Muffins (recipe below). My recipe is adapted from AllRecipes. I read countless pumpkin muffin recipes before tweaking this one to make it the perfect muffin recipe (in my humble opinion). I shared these muffins with the women's Bible study I have started to bake for as an outreach of my Romans 15:13 Ministry. These muffins along with thumbprint cookies (recipe can be found recipe here) were my treats of the week. They were a hit with my tasters and a joy to bake!

Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup pumpkin (canned "or" fresh) 
2 eggs, slightly beaten 
1/2 cup water 
1/2 cup veg. oil 
1 3/4 cups flour 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar  
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 and spray 16 muffin tins with cooking spray. 
  2. Blend pumpkin, eggs, water and oil in large bowl.
  3. Stir together all dry ingredients and then pour and mix into wet.
  4. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for about 25 or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Maple Cream Cheese Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 TB heavy cream
1 TSP vanilla extract
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 TB maple syrup

Whisk sugar, heavy cream and vanilla together until blended. On low to medium speed add cream cheese and syrup (amount may vary depending on personal taste). If the glaze is too thick add some more heavy cream. Blend until the desired consistency is reached. Drizzle on cooled muffins.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Good news, only 106 days till Girl Scout Cookie season.
But you probably already knew that. Don't you keep a "countdown till cookie season" marked on your calendar right next to the dog grooming appointments and dentist visits? We are talking about cookies here! And not just any cookies. Girl Scout Cookies. The creme-de-la-creme of the boxed cookie. Thin mints. Samoas. Tagalongs. Do-Si-Do's. Not Shortbreads... they are kind of the ugly duckling of the Girl Scout Cookie line-up. But ask any cookie lover and they'll tell you that the rest are certainly countdown worthy.
By this time in the year you have probably been out of these prized little treats for quite some time. (That is unless you have a box of thin mints frozen in your freezer. And of course there is no shame in that.) If you are a cookie lover and a Girl Scout Cookie hoarder then the simple act of just recalling the names of these famous little cookies probably has your mouth watering.
Well, dear cookie lover, don't fear, you do not have to wait 106 days to have your Girl Scout Cookie sweet tooth satisfied. You can bake up your own, homemade, from scratch cookie that will knock the jade green vest off every little girl in your local troop. With your own hand crafted freshly baked cookies you could start a revolution, bringing Do-Si-Do's to the cookie jar all year round. Who needs a countdown when you have a kitchen? Who needs a box when you could bake instead?
Get rid of that countdown. Scratch of the next 106 days of waiting off your calendar. The cookies are! All you have to do is bake them.
You can get started by checking out this recipe for homemade Do-Si-Do's. You will never long for another box of mass produced peanut butter and oat sandwich cookies again.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Monday: Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Have you ever woken up to a day that feels, how shall I put it, blah? The weather is overcast. The days agenda for what lies ahead is the same old, same old. Your hair is flat and make up just isn't doing the trick to perk up your looks or your mood.
This isn't necessary a case of depression or even a day in the dumps. What you might be experiencing is what we Americans like to call "Monday."
You might think that the case of the Mondays only happens to those who wake up to the sound of an alarm and must trudge off to work after a blissful weekend away from the desk. But let me tell you, the Mondays happen to workers and non-workers alike. There is something inherent in the day itself that seems to foist a stale, lackluster mood onto us all.
Maybe it goes back to the childhood, grade school years - at least that's where I place my blame for lack of Monday enthusiasm. I never liked Mondays growing up. I loved Saturday and Sunday best of all. Let's just say I wasn't school's number one fan. I was, and still am, a home body. I left my house each morning and immediately started the hourly countdown till the final bell rang that would release me from the confines of the prison, I mean, school I attended. Needless to say graduation was one of the greatest days of my twenty four years thus far.
So you see this is why I blame my dislike for school on my dislike for Mondays. Somewhere out there on Monday there is a kid just like me wishing it were still the weekend, wishing they could just stay home and not go to the institutional setting of a classroom with a blackboard, stern teacher and cruel students. Somewhere there is a kid who just wants to stay home with Mom, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch instead of standing in a cafeteria line picking through a blob of mystery meat. Somewhere there is a child who is sitting in class, embarrassed to raise their hand and ask a question for fear of mockery and snickers from fellow classmates. I get that kid. And I get why they don't ever want Monday to come.
Today I'm baking for that kid. I'm baking them a cake because on Monday, after a day spent back at an uncomfortable desk in a room flooded with harsh fluorescent lights and the stinging smell of disinfectant, there is nothing better than a cake sitting on the kitchen counter, freshly frosted and waiting to be enjoyed.
I can't bake a cake for every child who suffers from the case of the Mondays but I can bake a cake for the kids in my life who got up this morning and were met with the sight of school uniforms and lunch boxes. I pray that their day wasn't one of endless torture as they watched the clock, but I couldn't blame them if it felt tedious and never ending as they sat in the confines of a school that feels like a world away from home.
This cake is a cake to celebrate that even Mondays spent in school give way to Tuesdays. The dismissal bell always rings. The bus always takes you back home. And a pair of play clothes is always waiting in the drawer.
And, as hard as it is to believe in elementary school, Mondays are a day made by the Lord. They are beautiful in His sight no matter how dreaded they may feel to you and I. Monday can be just as blessed and beautiful as Saturday and Sunday if we choose to look at the glory of God in our mopey Monday. 
So here's a cake to kick off the week! May yours be one of immeasurable goodness and bountiful blessings! Happy Monday.

For your own Happy Monday cookie cake creation visit Sally's Baking Addiction for this chocolate chip cookie cake. (Hand written message was my own personal touch.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Apple Crisp

A theory is formulating in my mind and it goes something like this...There are two types of marrying men in this world. One wants to be a husband who dotes on a wife and one who wants an independent, self-sufficient wife.
The first type of man wants to be a protector. He finds fulfillment in being the man of the house. For this type of man having his wife do the "manly" work reduces his own role as husband. It is his belief that as a man he is to do the heavy lifting. He wouldn't have his wife mow the lawn, change fire detector alarms or move a couch around the living room when she felt like switching up the furniture arrangement. He, as the man, wants to be the strong and mighty warrior for his wife. He wants to care for her needs and treat her like a prized jewel, a delicate flower, a princess.
The second type of husband wants his wife to be her own warrior. If she wants the couch moved he wants her to be the one to move it. If the lawn needs mowed he is more inclined to remind her of its scraggly blades of grass than to break out the mower himself. On a Sunday afternoon he is more likely to be found on the golf course than doing any odd job around the house. He has his life, hobbies and duties and he believes his wife should have her own, too.

I know what kind of husband I want. And, more importantly, I know the kind of wife I want to be.
I want to be the kind of wife who creates a comfortable, loving home for her husband. I want to be the wife who supports her husband when he takes a step out in faith. I want to brighten his day with little surprises and remind him how much he is loved and cherished. I want to praise his efforts to fix broken appliances and doors - even when the craftsmanship is lacking in professionalism and precision. And I know that I want to be the kind of wife that has an apple crisp baking in the oven when her husband gets home from work.

So today I'm practicing being the wife I want to become by baking an apple crisp. There isn't an exact science when it comes to a fruit crisp. You can fumble around for measurements, be out of a particular ingredient or over mix the sugar and flour and still end up with a delicious result. For guidance in completing my crisp I sought out the AllRecipes authority and stumbled upon Apple Crisp II. Over 3,000 reviews and four and a half stars don't fail me now!

Just a few notes about the recipe. I used McIntosh apples and baked it in two separate dishes that equaled about a 9x13. Instead of water I used apple cider. More flavor = better dessert. In the topping I decreased the brown sugar, added a bit of cinnamon and upped the oats while decreasing the flour.
The verdict? It was a hit. I will definitely be adding this recipe to my arsenal of treats to bake for a future hubby!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A whoopie pie of a disaster

To bake or not to bake, that is the question.
Somehow I don't think Shakespeare faced this dilemma.

My baking escapades have continued and every day I have tackled another recipe and another set of ingredients. Some days the result has been divine. Other days it has been disastrous.
Like today.

I had another inedible creation, this time of whoopie pie proportions. I attempted to make pumpkin whoopie pies with a cream cheese filling. Instead I got round disc shaped sponges with pointy peeks  where soft pillows of dough were meant to form. I didn't even get to the cream cheese filling before I knew that these cookies were at utter failure and definitely not worthy of being served to anyone.
This is the second time in a week that my baking has turned into mush and has had to be disposed of instead of eaten up. This massive waste of ingredients being sent down my garbage disposal has me questioning my future in the kitchen. Should I be baking at all? Baking isn't cheap. The ingredients needed are plentiful - and pricey. I am spending much of my time in an apron with a bowl and mixer in hand when maybe I should be spending time doing something entirely different.
Should I be focusing on some job or career or some future that could include a pay check? Am I frittering away time when I really should be growing up and being more "adult-ish"? (Mature terminology, don't you think?)
I'm beginning to think this whole baking thing has been nothing more than an escape from the reality of having to grow up and make something of my life. And then, on the other hand, I am constantly aware of my physical condition and the limitations it places on me. How can I get on with life outside of the walls of my house when my physical ailments so often sideline me from being out and about and fully "productive" by the standards of society?
I'm at a crossroads and the disastrous whoopie pie situation pushed me right over the edge into complete meltdown.

I've wondered so many times throughout my four years of this physical trial, "how will God ever use me in this condition?" Then I hit on baking and thought that was how He would use me. But how will He use me if what I bake ends up in the sink? Was all that, "God can use me in the kitchen!" talk just a bunch of wishful thinking? Maybe it was just a distraction to get my mind off of the fact that while my fellow twenty-four year olds are off getting married, having careers and socializing I am stuck at home with a digestive system that I can't rely on and a body that is constantly on the fritz!
Maybe it is just time to face the facts of the matter: I'm a twenty four year old with no prospects of a future. I'm a twenty four year old still living at home in my childhood bedroom with no friends, no job and no career path. I don't have a marketable skill or a valued trade. I don't have a social circle or even a social semi-circle. I'm certainly not a baker and sadly, not a writer, either.
I'm just a girl on the fritz.... who maybe shouldn't be baking.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Perfect vanilla cupcakes with Nutella butter cream frosting

Every female needs a little black dress. And every baker needs a vanilla cake recipe.
Dear reader, I have found my vanilla cake recipe.
It took three tries and three different sources, but I hit on a recipe that I do believe will be my go-to vanilla cake recipe.
I discovered the recipe in my new favorite book, Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook. I love this book. I love the cover. I love the pictures. And, most of all, I love the recipes! Each one I've tried so far has been a success. And now I do believe it has even given me a staple of my culinary aresinal - the perfect vanilla cake batter.
I broke out a new addition to my kitchen to create these little vanilla cupcake creations. The stand mixer has now taken a prominent place on my kitchen counter. I'm enjoying just looking at it (and baking with it, of course). I feel so truly culinary now that I own and use a  stand mixer. Before I was just a wanna-be, now I'm one step closer to a legitimate baker. I am baking and I have the equipment to prove it!
Well, not just the equipment - I have cupcakes, too. Little, perfectly white, perfectly rounded cupcakes to show that I have learned something about baking in these past forty-some recipes. I've learned not to overbeat cake batter. I've learned that butter, when softened, shouldn't be at all melted but should be tender to the touch. I've learned that for most all cakey creations eggs need to be at room temperature. I've learend that measuring flour is a science that requires precision and attention to detail. Too much flour or too little flour can throw off an entire recipe. I've learned that convection for baking doesn't always produce the greatest of results. Best to stick with classic bake.
And I've learned that the more you bake, the more you learn about baking. I used to think baking was as easy as following a list of steps in the right order. Oh how wrong I was! There is so much more than good following of directions when it comes to successful baking. Just like anything truly exceptional, baking takes practice, patience and a lot of time in the kitchen.

To try out the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe check out The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook. In it you'll find a staple for your pastry repertoire.
Now as for that little black dress you're on your own. I suggest a shopping trip to TJ Maxx or Marshalls. But that's just me. After all, I'm just a wanna-be baker, not a wanna-be personal shopper!

PS... I topped my cupcakes with Nutella butter cream frosting from Sally's Baking Addiction.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Disposed of Apple Blondies {inedible falilure}

Five minutes to peel, core and slice the apples.
Ten minutes to measure, mix and beat dough ingredients then fold in the apples.
Thirty minutes to bake at 350 degrees.
One hour to cool.
Twenty minutes to beat (and attempt to salvage) malfunctioning frosting.

Ten seconds to destroy in the garbage disposal.

The Apple Blondies were an inedible disaster. My first entirely inedible disaster to date. The tops of the blondies were brown - golden actually. But, once cut, a mushy, gushy, disgusting center was revealed. The tops had cooked but the apples inside and the surrounding cakey dough had reduced to a slimy mess.
And the frosting. Oh goodness don't get me started! Who puts raw brown sugar in frosting? No right-minded dessert love wants a crunch in their creamy frosting. No one. I don't even eat frosting and I don't want it to crunch. Frosting is meant to be smooth and silky. Frosting is to dessert what sheets are to a bed. And just like sheets shouldn't be scratchy, frosting shouldn't be crunchy.
After twenty minutes of working with my disastrous frosting the crunch was almost dissolved thanks to ridiculous amounts of confectioners sugar, low heat and even more ridiculous amounts of butter.
After saving the frosting (or at least making it edible) I went to cut into the bars and discovered that the situation was much more dire than a crunch in the frosting. The bars were complete mush - clumpy, sugary, soupy mush.
I took the pan of apple slime to the sink, dumped, rinsed and turned on the switch to crush the inedible ball of dough into a disposed of memory.

Some days, some recipes, simply cannot be saved. Poor apple blondies, they looked like they had promise. The pictures were deceiving - golden brown bars topped with creamy, white frosting (seriously there could not have been brown sugar in the bars pictured!) But the reality of my own apple blondies was anything but tantalizing. So I had to face the music, or, more accurately, the mushy bars, and admit to defeat.
I came, I baked and I didn't conquer the apple blondies.
Oh well. Bake and learn.

Failed apple blondie take away: Pictures don't tell the whole story. So Pinterest picture gazer beware. Think before you bake!
And don't ever put raw brown sugar in a frosting...ever.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Romans 15:13 Ministry Week #1

Baking on the Fritz has had a blessing territory expansion! Fritz (me) is not only baking to keep my family fat and happy but now I'm baking for a ministry - a real, honest to goodness Christian ministry that reaches out to inner-city women.
If it were proper literary terminology I'd write "wahooo!" to express my excitement that way but because that isn't exactly proper English or even a word found in the dictionary I'll refrain. Just know that it is in that spirit that I announce this latest baking development.

You may be wondering how I went from baking simply as a way to keep my family in an abundance of sweets to baking for a weekly ministry. I could embellish some elaborate story about how my baked goods happened to be tasted by a pastry chef who was blown away by the crumb of my cookies and the delicate sweetness of my cream cheese frosting.
I could then think up a story about how that pastry chef was best friends with a director of a ministry outreach to inner city women and how this woman was just dying to have homemade baked goods to treat the women to each week when they came to Bible study. I could say that this pastry chef looked at me and said, "You must bake for them! I insist on it!" And then I could tell you that this pastry chef took me to the ministry director and presented me and my baked goods, giving his blessing to my baking ministry endeavor.
But that would be completely made up. What I would call a lie. So I'll just tell you the truth.
I emailed the ministry director and asked if I could bake for the women's Bible study that meets each week. She said yes and the rest is history.

Although my foray into baking ministry doesn't have an elaborate story it does have a meaningful beginning. Sometimes God doesn't throw a pastry chef at you and tell you to start baking up blessings. Sometimes you have to take the first step and reach out!
God planted in me this love to bake and has given my body the stamina to stand all day in the kitchen without fatigue. Over these past few months the call to bake for the spreading of Christ's love has grown stronger and stronger. I sat on the idea for a while praying over how to proceed and if to proceed. It was after that period of contemplation that I decided to take a leap of faith and offer what I have to give, my baking.
Can words explain how thrilled I am that my baking ministry was welcomed? I'm beyond thrilled!

Yesterday was my first day of baked goods delivery. I made three treats: pumpkin cookies with a vanilla glaze, blackberry oat bars and apple cherry oat bars. I covered all my treats in foil and wrote on the top "Romans 15:13."
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I'm filling people's bellies with treats made by hand, made from scratch and made with love. But more importantly I want to share with them the joy, peace and love found in Jesus Christ. I want them to be full not just on cookies and cake but on the power of the Holy Spirit. 

I don't know what God has in store for Baking on the Fritz. And that's the most exciting thing about this whole baking adventure. I have no idea where it's going! All I know is that next week I'm going to be baking for a room full of women who are opening up their Bible's (maybe for the very first time) to hear about their creator and savior.
Through baking God is showing me that I don't have to venture off into foreign lands and third world countries to be smack dab in the middle of God's territory and God's mission field. This might be right where he wants me, in my kitchen baking up blessings for the society right outside my door. I'm trusting where God leads, embracing the task set before me to spread the love of Christ one baked up treat at a time. 

To find the recipes I used to bake up these goods follow the links below!
Oat bars: Better Homes and Gardens New CookBook
Pumpkin cookies:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Homemade Pop Tarts

Growing up in my house we didn't have a whole bunch of "rules." My parents had standards and expectations but there wasn't a blackboard list of do's and don't or a fifty bullet point hand book that statied forbidden behavior.
Despite this lack of strict rule keeping I always knew what my parents approved of and what they did not deem acceptable or tolerable.
For instance, the words "shut up" were absolutely prohibited. I remember one day I told one of my brothers to shut up. Big mistake. My Mom made it clear to me that day that in our house we did not speak those words. As far as I remember that's the last time I've uttered the words "shut" and "up" in the same sentence.
The phrase, "I'm bored" was also off-limits. In the Rice household boredom didn't exist. If you felt like you were at lose ends, unsure of what to do with yourself you simply found something to fill the time. You never, ever said, "I'm bored." It wasn't a welcomed phrase.
Beyond words and phrases, there were lifestyle choices that weren't allowed while living under my parents' roof. When I was six I asked if I could get my ears pierced like all of my little friends in school. All the girls had their ears pierced. I was the lone hold out with virgin earlobes. I went to my Mom and asked if I could get my ears pierced with a needle (a strange desire for a girl who has always loathed anything sharp, especially needles). Her answer was an odd one. "Go ask your Dad." That didn't normally happen in our house. So I asked my Dad and my Dad pulled out an old, worn history book off of the shelf in our living room. The dust was so thick I couldn't see the cover. Then my Dad opened the book to reveal disturbing paintings of Indians with swords stuck through their flesh and gapping holes the size of baseballs in their ear lobes. He pointed to the images and said, "You see, getting your ears pierced is just as wrong as that."
That was it. I never asked to get my ears pierced again.
Beyond phrases and actions, in my house there were also certain foods that were not a part of our families diet. We had our fair share of sweets and my Mom was never opposed to a package of Archway Chocolate Chip Cookies but a few packaged goods never made it past the threshold of our front door. Most notably, the Pop Tart.
Never in my entire life have I eaten a Pop Tart. Not once did my Mom ever buy a box of the sugary pieces of cardboard that TV commercials raved about. I never put quarters into a vending machine and punch in the numbers for a Pop Tart of any variety. In college I passed the racks of individually sold Pop Tarts at the Student Union often consumed by my fellow scholars. My Mother's aversion to Pop Tarts stuck with me even when I became old enough to buy my own Pop Tarts!
That is, until I found a recipe for "Homemade Pop Tarts." The recipe looked daunting but the result in the images of adorable little cinnamon-sugar filled pastries were cute enough to tempt me to take on the challenge of baking these little treats up as my next pastry adventure!
First I had to make sure homemade Pop Tarts were allowed in my Mom's kitchen. After getting the thumbs up I embarked on the all day undertaking of making dough, chilling dough, rolling dough, cutting dough, chilling dough, whisking filling, assembling dough, chilling dough, baking dough and glazing dough! I told you this recipe was daunting!
After hours spent in the kitchen following the instructions to a T, heeding every tip and hint along the way, my little Pop Tarts were completed and boy were they cute! I'll admit they don't look exactly like the pictures I saw online. They look much more homemade then the perfectly sized and shaped tarts crafted by Sally's Baking Addiction, but the tarts that popped out of my oven were adorably cute in their own homespun way. They were golden brown, puffy and oozing of cinnamon sugar deliciousness!
The best thing about these little Pop Tarts is that they were a feast for the tastebuds, not just the eyes and nose! Even my Mom ate this Pop Tart and loved it. I'd call that a successful day spent in the kitchen.

These little tarts took all day create but they were worth a labor of love and they were worth all the effort.
Dear Baker, that's a lot like you and I, don't you think? Our life is a journey that can seem like a grueling, laborious task. We go through highs and lows, getting chilled and then molded and then chilled again all before we get stuck in an oven at high heat! Just looking at the long road ahead can be overwhelming. Like me, you may be tempted to never even start at step one, you may never even make the dough in the first place let alone form it into little rectangular shaped tarts!
But the long journey is worth every lengthy, difficult, tedious step. Our journey is a labor of love, shaping us into the image of Christ.
When you and I follow all of the instructions, dot every "i" and cross every "t" we will be rewarded with a deliciously golden brown tart of a life that brings with it the aroma that only the sweetness of Jesus can bring.
I'm so glad that today I spent hours in the kitchen laboring over homemade Pop Tarts. They filled my house with the warming scent of cinnamon and reminded me of an important truth. Following God's plan is a labor of love. It takes time, patience and diligence but in the end the result is always worth the effort.

If you would like to spend your day in the kitchen working on your own labor of Pop Tart love visit

Failed: Pumpkin Snicker-doodle Cookie

Failure is a part of life. Sometimes failure can be big, monumental, life changing. Take, for example, a failed marriage or a failed business venture. These failures can be crushing and, for some, absolutely devastating.
Other failures aren't so life altering. Sometimes the failure can be as simple as a batch of lousy tasting pumpkin snicker-doodle cookies - my failure of the day. Thankfully this failure isn't the life-ruining variety but it still isn't enjoyable to put forth time and effort only to be left with a lousy cookie lacking in flavor and short of sweetness. What is a cookie supposed to be if not deliciously sweet and flavorful?

My snicker-doodle snafu could keep me out of the kitchen. Let's face it, failure has a tendency to do that to do that to people, bakers and non-bakers alike. We fail, screw up or fall short of our goal and we become paralyzed to give it another go. Failure isn't fun. Failure is embarrassing - like delivering a lousy batch of tasteless cookies to a dinner party!
Unfortunately, failure in life is inevitable. It happens and it happens frequently. Sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways, but in every life failure is inescapable. The key is to not let failure ruin you but renew you!
Over the past four years of searching for an answer to my health dilemma I've tried so many different doctors, therapies, supplements and alternative treatments. I've gone from one side of the country to the other looking for a successful approach to treating what has plagued my body.
But for four years I came up with nothing but failure. One doctor after another would try different approaches to treating me and one after another would prove ineffective in giving me any lasting, permanent relief. The flare ups still came. My body remained on the fritz no matter what anyone tried to do to provide answers and healing.
Now, four (almost five) years later, I have a piece of my puzzle. I have a diagnosis. It is a step in a direction of healing and wellbeing. It isn't the "answer" or a "cure." It is a label and a name but it is also a big flashing billboard along my journey shouting the words, "Exit now!" After all of the failed attempts at finding some kind of answer I am just thankful to have success in the arena of test results, no matter how upsetting they may be.
But the journey isn't over yet. There is bound to be more failure to come as I begin down the road of finding what will provide my body relief and healing. There are so many options when it comes to treating MS. Therapies, supplements, diet plans, exercises, drugs, surgeries… the list of options runs the gamut. The trick is that not every treatment works for every person. This is not a one-size-fits-all disease with a one-size-fits-all pill to make it all go away. It is individualized in how it attacks the body and therefore the approach to treatment is just as personalized.
As I search for what will work for me I have to remember the lesson in the failed pumpkin snicker-doodle: don't give up when you run into failure.
There are going to be treatments that I will try and will prove be be entirely ineffective. I could spend months on a particular medication or supplement only to find that it made no difference at all. I could spent hours researching therapies and alternative treatments that will render useless for my personal case of MS. But I must not let those failures cause me to give up, reason to throw in the towel and stop searching.
With every failure I can choose to become paralyzed, worn out and depleted of the emotional stamina to continue on or I can pick myself up again and keep pursuing the health and well being God has for me.

If and when I run into failure I am determined that I will not let it crush my spirit. I will get back to searching for a new way to treat my muscles on the fritz just like I will get back in the kitchen this afternoon to bake up another batch of pumpkin cookies (not eggless snicker-doodles this time around, I can guarantee you that!)

Thankfully, failure is never the end of the journey. It may be a twist in the road or a complete U-turn, but it isn't the end. Failure is a lesson in what doesn't work and a directive to try another path. It is a fresh start, a new beginning.
So when you fail (which you will because you're human) don't let it keep you out of the kitchen. Clean off your counter. Wash out the dishes. Put your apron back on and get back to baking. Because there is a recipe out there with your name on it and if you search long enough, experiment with enough different ingredients and quantities and recipes, I guarantee you will find your home-run success of a snicker-doodle. And who knows, it may even have pumpkin in it!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies {flour-less}

A flour-less cookie? It sounds like an oxymoron. How could a cookie possibly be flour-less? Gluten-less I get. Even those with a severe allergy or intolerance to gluten can have a cookie made with almond flour, coconut flour or even oat flour (as long as its gluten free). But no flour whatsoever? The whole concept baffles my baking mind.
And so I had to give it a try. Five simple ingredients were all the recipe called for to create a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie….without flour.

Here's the recipe (from memory, that's how simple it is!):
1 cup peanut butter (creamy)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

And then, equally as simply, the instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the first four ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips. Form dough into tablespoon balls and place them on parchment lined baking sheet. Put in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. Take out of oven and let cool on sheet for about a minute. Remove from sheet onto wire rack to cool. Eat.

I will be honest, I was extremely skeptical of how this recipe could possibly turn out with any level of success. But I was curious, too, so I decided to test out the theory of flour-less cookies and see if this phenomenon could actually produce a delicious cookie.
Amazingly enough, the cookies didn't just "turn out" they were stand-outs! Unlike a normal peanut butter cookie with a faint peanut flavor, the flour-less cookie had an intense peanut flavor that said, "I'm a nut and I'm here! Eat up and enjoy!" There was no flour to dilute the goodness of a a rich peanut butter flavor. And the chocolate chips weren't overpowered by thick dough. The pleasure of the flour-less cookie is that it highlights all the goodness of a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie without being diluted by the addition of a flavorless gluten invader! Without flour every bite concentrates on peanut butter, sugar and chocolate. Flour-less cookies don't just taste delicious, they make logical sense, too!

Once again there is a lesson to be found in this simple cookie. Sometimes I think I know what I need. To bake I thought I needed flour. In life I often fall into the temptation of believing that I need to be healed from MS or I fall into the trap of believing that I need to put on weight to be happy, find friendship to be fulfilled and have a significant other to be validated. But the truth is that none of those things are necessary.
All that I will ever need I have today, right now in this moment because I have Christ. He is all I need. He is my all in all. He is the peanut butter and the chocolate chips. The rest is just flour. It can make my life denser but none of those extras will add to the true goodness of what I already have as a child of God. The truly divine richness and joy of life is found in Jesus. And I am already His and He is already mine.
If someday I am healed of this MS or I find a Godly man to share life with then that will be a wonderful blessing. But the bottom line is I don't need those blessings to be blessed, full and content. True contentment and true joy are found in being full of Jesus Christ, overflowing with His love.
And there's no flour required.

Glazed Sweet Potato Pie Cookies

Google (or Bing if that is your preference) the question, "What to do with leftover sweet potato" and you will receive over 28,000 responses. Make a pie. Fix a casserole. Prepare a quick bread or whip up a batter for a cake. Some cooks even suggest forming the mash into little patties and frying them in copious amounts of butter. Or you could become your very own Paula Deen and turn those spuds (or yams) into biscuits.
As tantalizing as those options sound I knew I wasn't looking for another cake, a quick or slow bread or even a pie. Today I wanted to mold dough, whisk a glaze and create a cookie! The only trouble with this baking adventure was the lack of recipes featuring both a cookie and sweet potato and glaze. I saw a few chocolate chip sweet potato cookies that touted, "butter free, gluten free, healthy!" I eat healthy. I am a big fan of healthy. But my dessert loving family prefers their sweets not healthy. They like the gluten, the sugar and most certainly the butter!
So the chocolate chip cookies were out.
Finally I fell upon Sweet Potato Pie Cookies with Orange Glaze. I looked at the picture. Not the tantalizing image I was hoping for. I read the ingredients. Sugar, butter, flour, cinnamon, more sugar, more butter - all the necessities were there. I read the reviews. Five stars and rave reviews with few substitutions or tweaks from the bakers. Still I was hesitant to give this recipe a try. I did more searching for other recipes but kept coming up short. I turned back to the Sweet Potato Pie Cookies and decided to give them a try with the hope that I wouldn't be wasting a massive amount of ingredients and time.
So I put out a stick of butter and one egg to bring them to room temperature. I measured out a cup of leftover sweet potato and pulled out my sugars, spices, flour and vanilla extract. As I beat the ingredients into a moist dough I started noticing the scent of the sweet potato, all spice and sugar. It was divine. The consistency looked perfect, too. Not too thick and not too thin, perfect for shaping cookies. The color was even perfect for the fall season. My heaping tablespoons of dough looked like the rich brown of a leaf in its final stages of change before it is due to fall to the earth.
I said a prayer and popped my cookies in the oven set at 375 (convection - a must for proper browning of cookies). Twelve minutes later I pulled out the first sheet of cookies to find a golden crisp forming on the edges and a perfectly puffy top rising in my oven. And that scent! It had gained sweetness and deliciousness in those twelve minutes spent baking in the oven.
As soon as the cookies were cool enough to eat I employed my trusty taste tester (Mom) and waited with baited breath for a verdict. Success. The cookies were not a disaster! The ingredients were not wasted! The cookies were edible, even satisfying and scrumptious!
For the glaze, at the request of my taste tester, I decided to forgo the recipe's suggested orange flavor in lieu of maple and vanilla. I don't have a precise recipe for the glaze. I can tell you this much, it started with a lot of browned butter, confectioners sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and then an undocumented amount of maple syrup and heavy cream. For that combination I must give credit to my official taste tester who had a sudden stroke of baking desire and took over in the completion of the glazing process.

From the creation of leftovers turned cookies I learned a lesson: trust the recipe. I was so concerned that the cookies wouldn't turn out. I vacillated over whether or not to give them a try and almost went in an entirely different baking direction. But in the end I decided to trust the developer of the recipe. And I'm glad I did.
Much like with baking, with Christ I have a choice: trust the author of life (the ultimate recipe developer) or rely on my own (very limited) understanding. Just like when it comes to baking, I will be better off to put my confidence in the instructions and follow them precisely. It is in heading the directive of Christ that I will get the best results.
I'm not a recipe developer for cookies or the developer of the best plans for my life. That's why it is best that I leave both the recipe instructions and the life instructions to those who know best. For Sweet Potato Pie Cookies that would be the Food Network website's Patrick and Gina Needly. In life that would be God.
The lesson is a simple one: trust and obey. As the little song goes, "trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."

Ready to take a leap of faith and trust an out-of-the-ordinary recipe? Try sweet potato cookies. Here's the recipe I used for the cookie:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

There is a kids show on TV called "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody." Don't jump to conclusions, I'm not sitting at home spending my evenings tuned into the Disney Channel catching up on my latest tween sitcoms. I have, on the other hand, witnessed snippets of this show while visiting my nieces and nephews. Trust me, that was enough of Zach and Cody for me. Their "suite" life lived out in a luxury hotel wasn't my kind of entertainment or my kind of "suite" life.
I happen to have my own kind of suite life and it isn't found in a hotel room or in a gold lined plate delivered by room service.
My suite life revolves around the sweet that is received through the act of giving. True sweetness is found in the blessing of being a blessing. Every other life leaves an overindulgent, sickeningly sweet aftertaste. But the sweet life of a giving life warms the soul, spreads love and always leaves the giver with a lighter spirit and fuller heart.

The truly sweet life is one that isn't focused on the self. It isn't concerned with accumulating stuff or even experiences. It isn't focused on its own desires, wants or even its needs (obviously I haven't reached that point in my spiritual maturity, I'm a work in progress).
Acts 20:35 says in quoting Jesus, "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Who could say it better than Jesus himself?

I was reminded of this scripture and this truth again this week as I laid in an oxygen chamber receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy. I had taken a break from this type of therapy for a couple of months but wanted to give it another shot to see if it could help my MS.
Don't get me wrong, I believe oxygen therapy can be beneficial but as I laid in that chamber I couldn't help but feel like I was in the wrong place. I couldn't give to anyone while shut up in that chamber. I couldn't bless anyone or share the love of Christ with anyone while laying in a glass tube. All I could do was look straight ahead at a TV playing some meaningless rerun. The life giving oxygen I should have been relishing was actually making me feel dead inside. I wanted out of that coffin like contraption. I wanted to get back in my kitchen and get back to blessing other people!
That is when I remembered Acts 20:35: giving is better than receiving. It was then that I realized I wasn't meant to be laying in that oxygen chamber. I was created to be a giver.
So I'm out of the chamber and back in the kitchen. This is where I'm supposed to be, preparing delicious desserts and blessing my beloveds.
That is truly the sweetest life and it is a life infinitely better than any "suite" life sitcom.

As an ode to the sweet life today I am baking Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Maple Marshmallow Frosting. And then I will give them away… That's my kind of therapy.

To try out this delicious recipe and become a believer in sweet potato baked goods visit the link below!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

This morning I had four little reasons to start baking. Their names are Lucas, Hailey, Eliot and Juliette. They are four of my ten nieces and nephews and this morning they came over for a babysitting date with Grandma (my Mom) while their Mom's had a morning out with yours truly, the childless sister-in-law.
The kids in my life are one of the primary reasons I bake. It is how I bless them. On days when my leg is flaring (like today) and my digestion leaves me house bound (way too often) I can still impact the lives of those adorable little kids by baking treats they'll love.
Little Eliot is one of my biggest fans. When I pull into the drive way, open his front and walk in with a tray, plate or tin full of the latest goodie he always comes running asking in the cutest little voice you've ever heard, "What did you bake today, Stephie?" He always uses my name and is always the first to dig into whatever dessert I have on hand. I don't think anyone loves what I bake as much as Eliot.
This morning got busy in the kitchen. I woke up knowing that by ten o'clock I wanted to have a special treat baked and ready for the kids to enjoy when they arrived. Eliot would be excited to see what sugary surprise I had in store and the rest of the kids would be more than willing to dig into a cookie at ten in the morning.
In an attempt to keep this dessert semi-healthy (a stretch to say the least) I decided to stick with an oatmeal cookie. This is a faux Archway cookie. It is a classic oatmeal base with a sugary glaze. Like I said, healthy is a stretch when describing this cookie. But, hey, oatmeal is healthier than chocolate chips, right? And after all this is Grandma's house. Dessert at ten in the morning isn't off limits!

So to the recipe we go! This delicious and classic treat comes courtesy of Annie Eats. You can check out her blog and the recipe at
For a classic cookie beloved by little hands and grown ups alike I highly suggest giving this cookie a try. If you're really feeling decedent, have it for breakfast. I won't tell, and neither will Eliot. After all, he's a morning cookie lover, too.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Zucchini Bread & Muffin

In America prosperity can be summed up in three little words: wealth, health and happiness. It is the American way, the land of abundance. This is what our world deems, "prosperous living."
And it isn't just the worldly who have bought into this belief. Christians have capitalized on this principle with vengeance. Ministries have flourished, churches have boomed and countless sermons have been preached on what is known as the "prosperity gospel."
The trouble with this concept is that is has nothing to do with the gospel and completely misses the true meaning of prosperity as defined by the Lord himself. True prosperity isn't measured in dollars and cents. It isn't even measured in sickness or health. Not even the word "happiness" comes into play when judging prosperity on God's terms.
Biblical prosperity is prosperous contentment, not a prosperity of stuff or fuzzy feelings.
There is no greater scripture to define prosperous contentment than Philippians 4:11, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Paul, the author of that verse, was not in perfect health. He had a thorn in his flesh that caused him agony. He was not wealthy by any means. He worked and supported himself financially and gave generously believing that it is "more blessed to give than to receive." 
And what about happiness? Was Paul abundantly "happy"? I can't speak for Paul but I can quote his words. He was "content." He didn't say he was over the moon ecstatic or that he loved being in chains or loved having a thorn in his flesh. He simply said that no matter his circumstances, he learned to be content in them all - the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the land of overflowing bounty and abundance known as America this isn't the gospel we long to hear. The prosperity gospel according to the world has a much sweeter ring to it. Money, health, good vibrations. Sign me up! Let's face it, who wouldn't want to be happy and wealthy and healthy? Those are all desirable life characteristics and they sound like the plot for a life on easy street. 
But they aren't Biblical.
The Bible never promises a life of ease. There is no promise of perfect health or abundant wealth. In fact, the Bible warns that if we follow God we should expect some tough trials up ahead. Could those trials include sickness? I'd say so. How about financial hardship? It certainly doesn't exclude the possibility. 
Not only are trials to be expected but financial prosperity isn't even to be expected. If we have much we are to give much. How wealthy can you be when you give it all away? 

Instead of looking to stuff, health, happiness and the almighty dollar to define prosperity the Bible instructs us to be prosperously content no matter what our lot in life, what our bank account or what illness may plague our physical bodies. None of those things exclude us from the blessing of prosperity. A lack of funds is not a lack of blessing. Illness is not an exclusion from prosperity. "Happiness" isn't God's way of defining a full and abundant life.
Contentment is being filled to the overflowing with the Holy Spirit. Contentment is being complete in Christ. Contentment is finding satisfaction and peace by being securely planted in the center of God's will. 
Prosperity isn't limited to American soil. It can be found in a hut in Africa, the crowded streets of Hong Kong, a sterile hospital room and every place in between. God's prosperity isn't limited to a geographic location or certain socio-economic population. Prosperity is for all because Christ is for all. 

So you're probably wondering what this whole prosperity talk has to do with baking. Just stick with me, I promise it all ties together. 
Today I baked zucchini bread and muffins. It is the beginning of September and that means that at farmer's markets all over the state buckets of zucchinis are still in abundant supply. Strawberries are long gone. There are no more blueberries to speak of and corn is even on its way out but zucchini are still readily available. Let's just say there is a prosperous amount of zucchini.
Now zucchini aren't the most prized of farmer's market vegetables. Most of us gravitate towards the luscious fruit, crisp greens and any vegetable with a bright color. Little tomatoes are beloved. Green beans are even more desirable when they are good and fresh. But zucchini are everywhere and we farmers market shoppers becomes almost immune to their existence. 
Until the end of the market season comes and we still long to buy something local and fresh. Then we turn back to the abundant supply of zucchini still overflowing in buckets all around the farmer's stand. We are once again reminded that there is goodness and deliciousness in this simple and plentiful vegetable. It may not be the first thing when people think of "delicious treat" but zucchini can be turned into something truly scrumptious when lovingly and carefully baked into a bread, cake or muffin. And if you're like me, a crisp, unadorned zucchini can even provide a refreshing snack when munched on raw or thrown into a salad.
For today's purposes I decided to bake up this blessed vegetable into a classic muffin and bread treat. I clicked around at lots of different recipes and ended up with a hybrid of a few. I used primary the most popular recipe for zucchini bread on All Recipes but made some tweaks.
If you'd like to use up the prosperous amount of zucchini filling your local farmer's market I suggest this recipe. It turned out beautifully!

Zucchini bread and muffins
adapted from:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (don't drain or strain!)
3/4 cup pecans

1.Grease a bread pan and 12 muffin tins. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2.Combine flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3.Beat (by hand) eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well (by hand). Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans, filling muffin tins about 1/2-3/4 of way full.
4.Bake muffins for about 20 minutes and bread for about 50 minutes or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.