Archive for December, 2011

2011

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

As the rental car exited the freeway and the beach came into view, my eyes opened wide in wonderment. I had entered summerland! It was January and back in Seattle the weather was characteristically dreary and wet. Here, a balmy breeze rustled the palm tree leaves as golden, bare-chested men trotted across the street toward the water with their surf boards tucked under their arms. Instead of the fierce, spandex-clad clumps of bikers that clog the streets of Seattle, the bikers here had flip flops, flowing hair and relaxed smiles. I had entered Huntington Beach.

This was a work trip, and although I was tired from travel and long days, each morning I dragged myself out of bed a little early, slipped on some shoes, grabbed my camera, and headed outside where the morning air, fresh off the ocean, immediately woke and refreshed me.

Those mornings were ethereal and magical. I meandered across the sand, encountering a couple walkers and photographers, but mostly surfers who were catching a few waves before work.

Now, almost a year later as I look back on my journal and photos, these images are my favorite. I had just purchased my camera and was clueless as to how to use it, but the beauty of my surroundings superseded my ignorance.

Another reason I’m drawn to these images is because they represent to me a sense of peace in the midst of chaos and ambiguity. At the time of this trip I was unhappy at my current job, interviewing for a new one that I didn’t feel good about, and ultimately feeling a bit trapped.

Thankfully seasons change, and only a few short months later things began looking up due to a variety of reasons. These days, the future is as unclear as ever. I have no idea what my life will look like this year, or even where I’ll be living and what I’ll be doing. But I have come to a place of total peace about this. I guess that is all part of the adventure, and I am ready! Bring it on 2012!!

Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”
- Isaiah 30:21

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.
Psalm 142:3

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Psalm 32:8

Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
Psalm 25: 12

Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16a

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Lemon Bars

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

The holidays are nearly over! They went by in such a blur. Yesterday my sister and I put on our fiercest faces, drove to the mall and plunged into the fray. It was total chaos! However, we kept our heads and emerged victorious after conquering Nordstrom and Sephora.

Today is different. I’m sitting at Panera Bread as I write this and things are calm and reasonable. I think most people have returned to work, and the retail world is taking a much-needed deep breath and beginning the recovery process.

My family had a wonderful Christmastime. We spent quality time together, and we ate a LOT of cookies (as evidenced by the picture below).

It was a time of indulgence, but I think that time is drawing to a close for a bit, at least for me. Anytime I come near to anything sugary, I feel my body telling me to stop that. It’s time for a little break!

In the spirit of taking breaks, I would like to share two things with you.

1) These lemon bars. I made them last spring before I had a blog, and they were scrumptious. My mom made them for Christmas this year, and I was reminded of how deliciously lemony they are.

I’m on vacation this week, so I thought I would take a small break from baking and just share with you the picture I took last spring, and the link to the recipe. Seriously, make these! You won’t be sorry. The recipe can be found on foodnetwork.com: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lemon-bars-recipe/index.html.

2) I am officially taking a break from sugar in January. I’ve been planning to do this for a couple months now. I got the idea from the Pioneer Woman, after reading this post back in September.

I don’t have any intention of being super intense about this – I am not cutting out everything that contains a grain of sugar. I am simply cutting out desserts, juice, mochas, etc. Anything that is overtly sugary/desserty (and…*sob*…subsequently delicious).

I’m also not calling this a diet, but more of a cleanse. I have no intention of giving up sugar for good! Please. That will never happen. I just have a little flair for the dramatic and I think a month is the perfect amount of time to reset and feel fresh. I will keep you updated on my journey!

Have a great final week of 2011!

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Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

It is officially that time of year – the time when we alternate between “ugly sweaters” and little black dresses, elbow our way through masses of shoppers, and bake endless stacks of cookies. My to-do list has officially multiplied into six categories…actually I think one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to work on my addiction to lists. Which I have just added to my list of resolutions…

All that to say, now more than ever, I value simplicity in my recipes! I’m sure you do too, which is why I’m so excited to share these Double Chocolate Mint Brownies with you.

My mom has been making these every Christmas for as long as I can remember. Not only are they moist, rich and delicious, but they are so simple to make. This is an A+ recipe!

The only thing to keep in mind with these is that each layer needs to cool or chill before you can move to the next step. So just make them on a day when you have some time at home and you’ll be good to go! Happy baking!


Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

Recipe adapted from Hershey’s

Makes about 12 servings

Ingredients

Brownies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups Hershey’s Syrup (16-oz can)

Mint Filling
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
3 drops green food coloring

Chocolate Topping
9 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease rectangular 13x9x2-inch pan. Combine flour, sugar, butter, eggs and syrup in a large bowl until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until top springs back lightly when touched. Top may still appear wet. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

For the mint filling, combine confectioners’ sugar, softened butter, water, mint extract and food coloring in medium bowl until smooth. Spread over fully cooled brownie. Chill.

For the chocolate topping, melt chocolate chips and butter over very low heat. Be careful not to burn the chocolate. Remove from heat; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over chilled dessert – chill further until firm enough to cut (at least an hour). Enjoy!

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White Hot Chocolate

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011


“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me” – C.S. Lewis. I could not agree more. I actually love tea, and I drink a cup of it almost every night. For me it signifies the end of the day and the time when I let everything go and catch up on Psych or The Big Bang Theory. But this post is not about tea – this post is about rich, creamy, indulgent white hot chocolate. And books.

I came across Paula Deen’s white hot chocolate recipe on foodnetwork.com, and noticed that it got rave reviews (except for the one scandalized reviewer who posted the calories…but we’ll just pretend that didn’t happen).

Just as I suspected from the ingredient list, this turned out scrumptious. It was velvety and rich, and the white chocolate really had a presence. I also chopped up some Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark to use as garnish. It was perfect, and the bits that melted and sunk to the bottom added one more layer to the flavor.

One of my favorite things to do is to drink hot chocolate and read a good book. I might start posting every now and then about books I’ve encountered, and I will always want to hear if you come across some good reads as well!

Here are just a few of my favorite books of all time.

1. Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis.

How I love C.S. Lewis! As do a million-billion other people, and for good reason! He is absolutely my favorite author. I love his writing not only because of his storytelling skills, and not just because of his clear logic that cuts you to the heart with it’s truth, but because I have encountered God through his eyes in a way I’ve never experienced with any other author outside of the Bible.

Naturally he is most famous for The Chronicles of Narnia, Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity etc etc. But one of my favorites is not as widely read. Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the Greek myth about Cupid and Psyche. It is different than his other books – almost darker, and the emotions of the main character are really complex. I’ve read it twice and both times I was completely and utterly moved at the end as the story climaxed. If you read it I would be interested to hear what you think!

2. No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green, by Melody Green and David Hazard.

I have grown up listening to Keith Green, and will continue to listen my whole life. For me he is the ultimate example of a person pursuing God and living life with no room for compromise. He lived in the present moment with an urgency and intensity that made a big impact. He was only 28 when he died tragically. I will be 28 next year and I find his example so convicting! This book was a total page turner.

3. Persuasion, by Jane Austen

I love Jane Austen’s books not just because of the love stories, but because she so completely mastered the art of writing a story about people essentially sitting around talking to each other, but yet always making the reader wonder “WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN??” While not as famous as Pride and Prejudice and some of her others, this story is one of my favorites. Trust me, it’s good.

4. The Lord of the Rings

I read these for the first time when I was about 12. I distinctly remember sobbing in utter despair when I came to the part where you-know-who dies. I also had a major literary crush on Strider. I revisited the whole series this year, and I forgot how seriously good it is! Excellent storytelling.

Well that is all for now – thank you for letting me indulge in a little droning about some of my favorite things! If you have favorite books please feel free to share anytime!

And now, for the recipe…I hope you make this white hot chocolate and thoroughly enjoy it!

White Hot Chocolate

Slightly adapted from Paula Deen

Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream, plus a little extra for garnish
4 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 squares of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark, for garnish

Directions

Melt white chocolate chips and heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir continually until white chocolate chips are melted completely. Stir in the half-and-half and vanilla. Continue stirring occasionally until mixture is heated.

While mixture is heating, whip a little extra heavy cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Flavor with vanilla and sugar to taste (less is more in this case, as the hot chocolate itself is very sweet).

Serve in mugs and top with whipped cream, and coarsely chopped Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. (I separated the peppermint topping from the chocolate base, which happened naturally during the chopping process. Because of this, it doesn’t matter if you use the milk or dark chocolate variety.) Enjoy!

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Jessie's Kitchen Chronicles