brownies without eggs

You know what I love about cooking? The sounds. The clink of the spoon against the bowl, the bubble of boiling water, the hiss of escaping steam (beware escaping steam!) the whirr of the oven, the crackling of the plastic packaging, the crunch of the salt grinder.

I love music. I love a lot of different music, you may have even noticed a few songs I picked out to share with you on this blog, and I love cooking to music. Music’s a big part of my life. It helps us to connect to others, it takes us to another place.

It’s important to hear the music in everyday life. The sounds of baking delicious, egg-free brownies, the calling of one friend to another, click clack front and back, train choo choo, all of that. It’s important to listen to the cadence of another’s voice.

The science of noise is fascinating and completely confusing (although click here for a really cool, funny, not-too-confusing intro) but what interests me is how we all connect to it. We are all searching for something, but the weird, sometimes comforting, other times frustrating thing is that someone else has probably felt it before you, and even if you feel like you are all alone in the world, chances are that someone out there cares. It may be someone who’s been down your particular black hole before and so therefore can empathise with you, or it may be someone who’s seen someone not come back.

Perhaps it’s just that you don’t look hard enough in your own life to find the person close to you who cares that much about you and can have an actual conversation without being awkward about it. Perhaps you have online friends, who although they’re a million miles away or close enough, are closer to you than those you see everyday.

Hopefully you have some people you see, so you can share brownies and sad stories (or even hopeful ones) but have some virtual brownies on me anyway, and know that I care, and that maybe I even love you.

[what is this, esther day?]

Egg-free brownies

So originally these were vegan but I don’t keep soy milk or margarine around the house (sorry lactose intolerant and vegan people. It’s not that I don’t love you. I just don’t like the taste of those things) so I just made them egg free, which was what I was looking for anyway because I ran out of eggs. I also accidentally cooked them at 200 degrees for fifteen minutes and then realised my mistake and dropped the temperature to 150. So just try to keep it at one eighty, yeah?

**UPDATED** These do actually taste of coffee. A lot of the time the espresso is just put in to enhance the coffee flavour, but these do taste like coffee. Just a warning!

adapted from Milk’N Cookiezzz

4 ounces dark chocolate

3 ounces butter (substitute margarine for vegan version)

1/3 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan version)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line an 8″x8″ baking tray with foil and spray it with baking spray.

Melt chocolate and butter together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, cornflour, coffee powder and vanilla.

Combine chocolate mixture and milk mixture. Sift in flour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 20 minutes.

day three – part two – LBTL

One of the things that was really difficult for me this week was that in living below the line, I was doing probably as much harm as good. Sure, I’m raising money for ant-poverty initiatives, for education to help people get out of the cycle of poverty, something better than just throwing money at the problem and thinking that’s my bit done. This is a way to help change my outlook on life so that I think about my actions and how in every way I can do better, in every way I can act righteously (more on that later). It’s made me think and it’s made others think. I’ve had some really interesting discussions regarding whether people can buy me food (no) does this mean it’s ok for me to steal (no) does free food, such as from food vans, count (yes) can I use the veggies from my garden (unsure, but we’ll say no just in case) and it all basically revolves around the fact that I’m not just doing this because I have to, it’s a choice to raise awareness for myself and others.

These are all good things that happen because of this initiative. But to live on less than two dollars a day in Australia, I’m supporting organisations I don’t like or want to support. I’m buying unethical produce.

See, to afford enough food to feed myself for this week, I had to buy no-name brands. Flour, butter, pasta. Sure, I got my fresh food from the fruit and veggie market, but only because it was on special – in the discounted section. I was lucky in that way. But what home brands do, the brands like coles smart buy or Woolworths home brand or Black & Gold, they lower their prices, get monopoly over the market, then when it’s all theirs, they’ll jack up their prices so they get more and more money, while conning the producer out of what’s theirs.

And that’s just a part of it. So while I love what Live Below the Line are doing in terms of awareness and projects, it kinda sucks in this sense.

I don’t know what the answer is. We do what we can, and we let God take care of the rest. Although I have to say, what we can do is much more than we give ourselves credit for. We make so many excuses but we could be doing so much more for those less fortunate than ourselves.

I mentioned in my earlier post today about the fact that I have lots of food and everyone, while it’s lovely that they’re taking notice and caring about whether or not I’ll faint, doesn’t really get it. I feel like I’m cheating a little, because I really do have enough food. That said, it’s less than what I’m used to and I have to ask myself, how much of the time do I eat just because I feel like it and how much because I’m actually hungry? I’m not saying that eating is bad – I love food, and I love eating. I often eat too much just because it all tastes so good. But we complain (and by we I mean me) about the lack of this or the fact that we have to have our second-favourite flavour milkshake or whatever, and we’re just covering up the fact that we’re spoilt, western brats.

But we do what we can. And we’re all working on our personal issues and hang-ups. No one is perfect; we just strive to follow Jesus as closely as we can.

Flatbread

Adapted from Julie Goodwin’s LBL recipe

300g plain flour

30g butter

Water

Sift the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Melt 20g of the butter and place in the well, and add water (not too much). Stir, adding more water if needed, until it’s shaggy and mostly stuck in clumps. Knead until it forms a smooth ball.

Melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Take a small piece of dough and stretch it out (you can roll in if you want it to end up a little prettier) until it’s fairly thin, and fry in the butter. Repeat with the rest of the dough (you can fry several flatbreads at a time).

Dip in your soup and imagine a better world. It can happen!

the hunger games

The Hunger Games (and its following books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) are a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and they are a shot to the heart. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic North America, where the country is drastically shrunk by rising sea waters and is now called Panem, a country made up of the Capitol and twelve districts. Each year, a boy and a girl are drawn from each district to participate in something called the Hunger Games.

Our heroine is a girl called Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games. This is because the object of the Games is to be the last one left alive. Yep, these people pit kids against each other (keeping in mind the children could be anywhere from twelve to eighteen years old) for sport. And everyone has to watch and celebrate the victor.

I don’t want to spoil the books for you because I really think you should read them yourself. I stayed up past midnight for three nights, one for each book. I told myself each time that I wouldn’t do that, I’d read some and save the rest till morning, I’d be a good girl. I never lived up to these promises though, because these books just caught my heart.

The thing about these books, though, is that they are about our world now. We in the West are the rich Capitol, whose children are safe and who don’t see the Games as bad, just as entertainment. Operating under the motto Panem et Circises, as long as we are fed and entertained, we don’t look past the screen to see the pain and suffering of the rest of the world. The Districts, who feed and support the Capitol, who once rose up against them but were crushed and are now continually stamped all over by the Hunger Games and the order of the system, are the Second and Third Worlds, struggling to survive and doing anything to keep their families alive.

There is a part in the books where the people who had previously won the Hunger Games are asked to vote on whether there should be one more viewing, one more Games, where the rich Capitol’s kids are made to play. And the consensus is yes. These people who have been crushed all their lives, who fought to survive people set out to kill them, who had to live with the consequences of killing and being hunted, who lived through a revolution, decide to keep the cycle of violence alive – just one more time, because revenge is sweet and it’s the only thing they can think of to take their minds off the pain.

That we live in a world where this happens is no good for anyone. That we think that violence and death can somehow solve problems, heal hearts and minds, vanish guilt and ease pain, is a product of what our world has become and it’s what’s keeping us all sick, keeping our world spiralling downward.

See, after I’d finished reading the last book, crying at the end because it’s not all black and white, and every death is etched in the minds of those who executed it, I was reading the paper and I saw the articles written by people who had lost loved ones to terrorists and people who were so downtrodden and in pain, the only way out that they could see was to inflict that pain on others. And they thought that more death could heal their hearts. Not that they could forget the pain but that revenge could somehow soften the blow.

That we live in a world where violence is the answer, that death solves problems, that we cannot see what harm we are doing to ourselves by living this way, makes my heart sore, and it was all I could do yesterday not to burst into tears over the dishes.

I’ve never felt the pain of losing a loved one to a deliberate attempt to cause harm. I don’t know how it feels. But when I see this pain and heartache, I turn to those who have and have come out with love, arms open, forgiving and full of grace. This beauty that can come from the ugliness of violence and hate pierces my heart and reminds me of the hope that I find in Jesus.

These are the people that give me hope. These are the people that, if I were ever in a situation to choose between vengence and justice, I would turn to to point me towards the Way, the Truth and the Life.

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: particularly their reaction to the recent killing of Osama bin Laden

A story in the book Plan Be by Dave Andrews. Just buy the book, we’ll talk later.

Jarrod Mckenna

There are more, but for now just check these out. Forgiveness is hard, but love is the only way.

thistle & weeds

For me, when I’m freaking out (or sad, or angry, or frustrated, or on the verge of becoming a basket case) it helps to cook. Specifically, to bake and if it helps other people at the same time, all the better. (Can you tell I’m a two on the enneagram? Let me look after you and I’ll save my freak out for when no one can see. I’m working on this tendency to not look after myself, but I digress. Let’s get back to the topic, shall we?)

I’m not exactly ready to talk about why I’m on the verge of becoming a basket case – the internet still seems so impersonal – but making snickerdoodles sure did help.

What are snickerdoodles, you may ask? Well, I would love to tell you. They are a cookie, and I’m pretty sure they’re American so yes, it’s cookie and not biscuit. They are a basic chewy cookie but they are covered in cinnamon sugar and the first time I made them, my friend described them as ‘like biting into a unicorn.’

Oh, yes.

So when my housemate came up to me and complained that she was hungry and we had no cookies, there was really only one thing to do. Because not only are they amazing, snickerdoodles are really easy to make. They only take ten minutes in the oven and it’s a one-bowl recipe. Genius. You may, however, have to make a few trays because they spread out quite a bit.

And yes, this did help me to calm down. Especially once I’d taken a bite.

Snickerdoodles

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

250gm butter

1 3/4 cups sugar (plus more if needed)

2 large eggs

3 1/2 cups plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt (only necessary if you use unsalted butter, which I did. Usually I use salted butter, which takes one ingredient out of the equation.)

2 tablespoons cinnamon (plus more if needed)

Preheat your oven to 200ºC and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.

Cube the butter and heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds (this is because in my house, butter lives in the fridge. It melts about half the butter and makes it easier to beat. If your butter is already at room temperature, skip this, although if your room is under 15ºC then you’ll probably want to do this anyway.) Beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar with an electric mixer (you can use a stand one, I only had a hand held) until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in both eggs.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift the flour, baking powder and salt in in two batches, folding it through until just incorporated after each batch. Beat with the electric mixer for about a minute, making sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in.

Combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar in a bowl. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop balls of the mixture and dump them in the cinnamon sugar; roll them around to coat the whole ball and place on the baking sheets. Place them pretty far apart; like I said, they spread out quite a bit. Place the trays in the oven and bake about ten minutes; if you have more than one tray, rotate them at the halfway mark.

When you remove these from the oven, try not to burn your fingers as you take them straight from the pan.

Thistle & Weeds from Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons; my new favourite album and right about where my mood is.

mango tree

Sometimes, when life’s just crapping all over you, you just have to bake.

Sometimes, it’s so bad, you can’t do much. Honestly, all you want to do is sit back and eat the thing, not slave over a hot oven in humid Melbourne summer weather for something that may not work anyway.

So. Today was that day.

If you remember how to make lemon curd, make it. If you still have some left over from last time, like me, aren’t you lucky? Yep, you are.

Now take 125gm cold butter (I use salted, that’s just my preference) and chop it roughly into cubes. Put 1 2/3 cups of flour into a food processor and while it’s going, add in the butter. When it’s just about in a ball, turn it out and knead it into a ball. Refrigerate it for about 20 minutes and then roll it out on the same floured surface. Cut little circles out and put them into a patty cake tin, prick the bottoms with a fork and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes. Let them cool and then fill them with that lemon curd.

If you have leftovers, I suggest you make a lemon meringue pie like I’m going to. Just put the rest of the rolled out shortcrust pastry in a little springform tin, blind bake for oh, 20 minutes maybe? Fill with lemon curd then make meringues (also like last time) except not as much. Pile it on and bake in a 200°C oven for maybe ten minutes. Not entirely sure. I’ll let you know how mine turns out.

Hope your day was better than mine. If not, listen to this and you’ll feel better.

good pyjamas = good sleep

“GOOD PYJAMAS : GOOD SLEEP” so goes the old saying, yet many people donot understand the vital significance of pyjamas in the achievement ofdeep and restful sleep.

SLEEPING IS A RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY: a holy communion with the inner worldof dreams and darkness. The appropriate ceremonial attire is importantfor a smooth passage into the land of nod.

ESSENTIALLY, pyjamas must FEEL COMFORTABLE and LOOK RIDICULOUS. Wearingthem is a ritualistic renunciation of the concious, external world: theworld of looking good and feeling stressed.

As we approach the cot, pyjama clad, the LUDICROUS SELF is proclaimed,triumphant and free. The vestments of the outer world lie cast off andcrumpled on the floor.

We look soft and child-like; inept and shambling; primitive and funny.The pyjama fabric droops like tired old elephant skin. The buttons aredone up in the wrong holes. The trousers are hitched up nearly to thearmpits. The cuffs wag above the ankles.

One side of the coat is tucked in, the other side hangs out. We have noplace in the “real” world looking like this! WE ARE THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF. What freedom! What peace! What blessed relief!

“GOOD PYJAMAS : GOOD SLEEP”
Michael Leunig

*I am sorry for the lazy post but I am so out of it today my thoughts are not worthy of attention. So, read someone else’s very worthy philosophies about sleep and pyjamas instead. Hopefully I will be more optimistic tomorrow. Adieu.