Monday, November 29, 2010

White Chocolate!

My dear friend Diane is allergic to chocolate.  You heard me.  The good stuff.  
She is also allergic to apples and grapes if any one is interested.  For some reason, during college I could never remember this.  I was forever offering her brownies and apple pie, grapes, you name it.  Bless her, she would just stare at me for a minute then calmly say, "Sue, I'm allergic to [chocolate, apples, grapes], I can't eat that."
Her theory is that I love chocolate so much that I just can't allow for the possibility that somewhere in the universe there are people who can't eat it too.  
I think it's a good theory.  That and I'm horribly forgetful. 
Well, Di is getting married soon.  And several bridesmaid events have called for the making of some scrumptious baking goods- giving me the chance to branch out of my usual apple pie/chocolate frosted chocolate anything repertoire.  And it's also introduced me to my new best friend: white chocolate.   
I will try not to gush, but suffice it to say I put it in every thing I can think of nowadays.
I've even converted my husband, a die hard white chocolate hater, into a "i'll eat it IN things" white choc lover. 
One of the winners we've tried lately: 

White Chocolate Raspberry Scones (oh my gosh amazing)
from Sarah's Cucina Bella
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using two knives. Stir in the chocolate chips and raspberries. Set aside.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the heavy cream and whisk some more until fully combined.  Make a well in the center of the dry mix and pour the egg mixture in. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir until just combined. It will be dry and crumbly and won’t hold together well.  Turn out the dough onto a floured cutting board. Using well-floured hands, pat the dough into an 8 inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick. Use a pizza cutter to slice into eight wedges.   If desired, brush the tops of the scones with 1 tbsp of heavy cream and sprinkle with course sugar.  Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet and cook for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Serve immediately. These are best eaten within two days. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
More?  Sure!  Come back tomorrow for: White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies 

Thanksgiving Culinary Attempts...

I tried a few new recipes for our family Thanksgiving. Being the youngest and potentially most irresponsible I am not yet charged with the important stuff like turkey, or, well, anything requiring cooking. When asked what I, as a new bride and officially "grown up member" of the family should bring, my sweet momma thought for a second then graciously asked if I could bring bread.  Bread.  "Just whatever you can get at the store would be great!"  Being the Home Economics major and Martha wannabe that I am, I decided to prove my awesomeness by making the bread myself.  

Part I: Recipe Selection
I actually have a pretty awesome basic French bread recipe I make when I'm feeling especially culinary and actually have time to be culinary.  It turns out as expected about 8 times out of 10.  Because I am not smart and have not learned from the age old adage that you never try a new recipe on guests- I decided to tweak the recipe by substituting three cups of white wheat flour for regular flour (so that meant three cups white wheat and four cups regular flour). The recipe for the awesome French bread is found here: 

I bought like 20 pounds of cranberries a few days ago so decided to include them in the baking in some form or fashion.  Since cranberry French bread hasn't caught on just yet, I decided to go with cranberry white chocolate muffins.

Part II: Recipe Execution.  
Also, because I am not smart, I didn't count carefully while measuring in said cups of flour and probably added a cup too much.  Needless to say, the bread didn't quite rise right, didn't roll out quite right, didn't stay together quite right, and didn't taste quite right.  Pretty sure it was the combo of too much wheat flour and, well, too much flour in general.  I don't want to talk about it.
The cranberry white chocolate muffins were the balm to my injured pride.  I substituted a cup of yogurt for the sour cream the recipe called for (my attempt at healthy baking).  The fresh cranberries were WONDERFUL...they lost the eye opening tartness with the baking and were a pleasant counterpart to the sweet white chocolate.  The crumb topping ended up as brown sugar glaze as I forgot to mix in the flour before spooning it over the top.  (Probably because I had used the all the flour in the bread).  Surprisingly, that was a nice addition...making it a slightly crisp, crunchy muffin top.  

Part III: The Review.
The muffins went fast.  Yay for new muffin recipes!  The bread, uh, lingered.  My mom and dad dutifully ate it through the weekend with smiles and compliments but I know the truth.  Next year I'll probably buy Sister Schuberts rolls and call it a day.  

Hope your Thanksgiving was as lovely as mine!  Graham and I have started a strict no sweets, three mornings at the gym regimen as a result but it was totally worth it.  

Can't wait to hear about your Thanksgiving too!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two years since Africa.

It had been a week full of thoughts of Africa.  My time there, friends going there or living there now, friends adopting from there now.  Mostly of how strange it is that I am coming on the two year mark of NOT being there myself.  It’s such a strange bittersweet feeling to be loving the life that the Father has laid out for us here and now, and still be so intrigued and connected to the world I left there behind. 
Last week, visiting with a dear friend in South Carolina recently returned from a stint overseas herself shared a bit of insight.  She said that our minds have trouble allowing the possibility that both the America we come home to and love and the poverty stricken overseas world we love and work in can coexist.  In order to process our time overseas and our guilt of being back, safe in America, we must allow the reality that both worlds not only coexist but continue, rather unaffected by our absence. 
When my direct involvement there ended, I separated myself mentally.  Africa became an accumulation of my memories and recollections, a concoction of my own experience.  I forget sometimes (many times) that my friends there, the places I walked and slept and ate and bought oranges at are still there (in some form or fashion).  They are living their lives just as I am living mine. 
With the realization has come a flood of memories of my time there, sweet memories this time.  Being in the south of the country at a conference and walking down these little dirt roads past families washing their clothes or driving in a totally ridiculous rickshaw blaring Akon as we drove puttered down the long road from the airport to our compound with the hot wind in our faces.  Laughing with our language helper over something silly or that time I couldn’t say a national friend’s name to save my life (Her name and the Arabic word for small goat were almost imperceptible…at least to me) but for some reason Little Goat was convinced I could say and probably repeated it 20 times.
It’s a good place.  And I do miss it. 
I hope to go back again one day and take Graham and my babies to see those places that were so hard and good and meaningful.  I want to hug my little African momma’s Nufeesa’s neck and see my friend Weesal’s weird, tacky wedding pictures. 
I’m smiling as I write this, because there were times over the two years I was there (let’s be honest, there were times in the two years SINCE I’ve been there) that I never thought I’d miss anything about that place.  I’m so glad I do. 
My narcissistic mind has trouble wrapping itself around the fact that life continues, unabated, without me anywhere I’ve been and left.  But it’s sweeter now thinking of that.  Thinking of my friends and the dirt and the heat and the weird smells and the awesome bread. 
So if you think of it today, pray for them.  Pray that they are well and smiling today too.     

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

OH YEAH, this is happening.

So, Graham and I have joined the ranks of those committed to sit week by week in a cold classroom and watch a guy on a video tell us how to handle our money.  And love it. 
That’s right, we’re enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University this semester at our church.  Each week, I rush home from work, scarf down some dinner and we bolt out the door to make it in time for the “ladies and gentlemen…Dave Ramsey!!” video opener that plays each week.  It’s stressful getting there.  It’s a little stressful being there.  And it makes for a long night with a lot of awkward conversation with people we don’t know all that well. 
But we go every week anyway. 
Because for the first time in our little youngest in the family, don’t care about money, never balanced a checkbook lives…we’re becoming aware of our finances.  Surprisingly, that’s a really good feeling.
The rather annoying tag line Dave (my husband hates that I refer to him by his first name…) says all the time is “Live like no one else so you can LIVE like no one else…and GIVE Like no one else.”  Silly.  Repetitive.  And true.  The thing is we already feel like we’re living like no one else- we’re in seminary- Graham’s a student, I work at a church- not exactly the recipe for success (more like the recipe for a life time of hand me towns and couponsJ).  But even within that, we’re learning to say no to things now so we can say yes to them later.  Or even better- saying no to things now so we’re in a position to say yes to Lord. 
So all that to say- we’re learning a lot.  We have our first budget (gasp!!! Budget?!)- oh yeah.  And we’re even trying the mystical envelope system.  I’ll let you know how it all goes.
As always, we covet your prayers that we would be found faithful in the small things so he’d count us ready for the big things.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quality Time

The other day my husband Graham and I had a rare afternoon at home. We had met with students in the morning and had more appointments later that evening- but somehow we had managed to steal a few hours to rest.

I was sitting on the bed doing my daily Bible reading and journaling a bit when I heard him walk through the back door. His characteristic loud footsteps sounded down the back hallway and into our room.

He chatted happily and he moved around the room, putting things away and getting ready for the afternoon. Being the needy wife I am, it wasn't enough.

I sheepishly asked him if he would sit with me for a while and catch up.

I didn't want to just be in the same room as he was. I didn't want to just be doing the same thing as he was. I wanted him to climb on the bed and talk to me, to hold my hand and "be" for a little while. I wanted his full attention.

Being the amazing husband he is, he happily complied, abandoning whatever productive plans he had for that moment )and without even ONE comment about how needy I was) he hopped onto the bed and we caught up on the day. As I sat there with him, talking about the morning and holding his hand, sitting close, and enjoying his nearness so much I sort of wanted to cry, it hit me.

Isn't that what God wants from us?

Not just to work on his behalf, or be present in his house.

But to be with him.

To commune, undistracted.

To sit together closely, talk through the day, enjoy each other. To delight in Christ and be delighted in by him.

In 1759 Joseph Hart penned these words, and they are resonating in my heart today:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,

Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms

O there are ten thousand charms! May you enjoy the nearness of a Savior who desires nothing less than your whole heart, and whole attention today. And pray the same for me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


This morning I was driving to work and thinking about how tired I was, how out of shape I was, how I wished I had more time to clean up the townhouse before I left, and how I had forgotten my lunch.

Now I'm struck with the general inconsequence of all that. Yesterday, three Samaritan's Purse workers were abducted in Nyala, Sudan- a place I know and love- while they were going about THEIR daily business. (click here to read the story)

I'm still not sure what that means- how the perspective that comes from KNOWING that the things that I struggle with, while important and valid, are not as serious as I make them out to be. And that there are people who are right now in situations much more dire than I. I don't know how this should change me- change the way I live and think.

But it's probably worth the consideration.

What is my role as a seminary wife, confident of God's call for me to be here, fully present, in America for this season, yet not so far removed from time overseas to have forgotten the realities of the world beyond my view? I'm honestly just not sure how that looks. Wisdom is welcomed.

In the meantime, while my current identity crisis is being resolved, I will fall upon the only thing I know for certain. That prayer is the greater work, no matter where we are and what we're doing. And that I have a God who hears...and knows...and listens.

Pray with me today for our friends in Sudan. They (both those in captivity and those trying to get them out) have long days ahead of them. The adrenaline will soon fade and the long hours and lack of sleep will set in. They need strength, clarity and wisdom as the second night is now upon them. And peace. And grace. And sleep.

Monday, March 29, 2010

MMMMmmmmm. Grease! Southern Cooking!

our sunday lunch
who knew it was so good.
and dangerously close to my house.