Sunday, July 22, 2012

God's presence

Yesterday was one of those bad days, filled with grief. I simply wanted to talk to my dad. And my brother Mark. In the wake of the theater massacre in Colorado, I was sick of gun violence and heavy laden knowing what it's like to have had my own brother murdered. And I was lonely. I missed Mike. The death thing times three, much too much in a short span of time.

But God never leaves me hanging out there too long without somehow sending words of consolation.

The sermon today at church was from Romans 8, about suffering and having hope in a broken world. This flawed world is not what we are living for--it is just what we have while we're waiting. We may not, indeed cannot understand God's purpose. But even in the midst of human heartache we should know that God is still our loving father. We reach out to Him. We receive God's grace in the midst of hardship and we hang on for dear life. Sometimes trusting God's goodness is all we have to get us through. Trust without understanding. For Christians earthly suffering is not the last word. In the end we'll have nothing but joy in the presence of God. Thank God! Literally.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies (oh, no!)

It was innocent. I swear. I was online looking for a recipe, thinking that it would be interesting to make muffins with bacon in them. I confess that I have a considerable number of food weaknesses and bacon is near the top of the list. A bacon, avocado, and Swiss cheese sandwich (on cheddar cheese bread) might be my request for a final meal. Oh, heart be still. That sandwich could be enough to still a weak heart.

So, I’m amusing myself by searching for bacon muffin recipes when I find an online bakery called The Baconery ( Seriously, it’s a bakery that puts bacon in everything—bacon apple pie, bacon brownies, chocolate peanut butter bacon cookies. They actually combine peanut butter cookies (which I love!), chocolate (which I love!), and bacon (I already told you I love bacon) into a single food item? That made me search for a recipe for chocolate peanut butter bacon cookies. It was too easy—right there on the Food Network. Note that I am giving you this recipe without testing it. Consider it virtual testing. I’m afraid to make these cookies because I can almost guarantee that I’ll love them and then I won’t even fit into my fat jeans. Please let me know if they are good. On second thought, I don’t want to know.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of chipotle or ancho chile powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 strips bacon (1/3 pound)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped honey- roasted peanuts
1/3 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, chile powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve 2 tablespoons of the drippings and set aside to cool. Crumble the bacon, discarding* any chewy bits.

Beat the butter and reserved bacon drippings in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the peanut butter until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the granulated and light brown sugar until creamy, about 4 minutes, then add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture in 2 additions, scraping down the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the peanuts and all but 2 tablespoons each of the chocolate chips and bacon.

Form the dough into 12 balls and arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten with your fingers (the cookies will not spread in the oven); press the reserved bacon and chocolate chips on top. Bake until golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

(*Are these people crazy—why would anyone discard the chewy bits of bacon? That’s so wasteful.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Grief with and without corn holders

For the past few days I’ve been walking around the house, sputtering and kicking inanimate objects that won’t hurt when I kick them. And I’ve been asking Mike where the hell he is. I guess I went into another ring of grief hell on the 4th of July, late in the afternoon. Although I was spending the 4th of July alone, doing nothing, I decided that I would honor the holiday—so I bought some really good hotdogs and got beautiful sweet corn at the farmers’ market. I was sitting on the back patio in the sweltering heat, shucking corn. And I started to cry. Corn was a Mike thing. He was a connoisseur of white corn and Chesapeake blue crabs. Corn had to be cooked in boiling water, in a covered pot, no salt, for exactly 7 minutes. He even bought me a set of those cheesy plastic prong things that you stick in the ends of an ear of corn. He claimed it was the patriotic American way to eat corn. I never knew. I grew up in a family that ate corn without the prong holders. I suppose it was an un-American activity. Once, a number of years ago, Mike (temporarily) broke up with me and I threw the corn holders in the trash because they reminded me of him. When he came back I had no more corn holders. He improvised eating corn after that and didn’t bother to buy me a replacement set.

So the corn shucking got me going. Damn, I miss him.

June 18th is his birthday. That day I went to Gettysburg and met Mike’s best friend Rich at the spot on Little Round Top where we had scattered Mike’s ashes in late April. I still have a hard time believing that such a strong man has been reduced to ashes that surely floated away in the rainstorm that came through later that night after we threw him to the wind.

But when I am despondent over his loss and pray to God for mercy on my grieving heart, I am reminded of God’s incredible mercy. Mike professed faith just weeks before he died. When I wonder if God ever listens to prayer, if He ever works miracles, all I have to do is to remember the day Mike was baptized. He was dying but he said it was the best day of his life. The best day of his life. Even better than having corn on the cob on the 4th of July. With yellow plastic corn holders.