Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Better than Thin Mints

So I didn't announce this or anything (you'll find out why shortly), but about a month ago I decided I was going to attempt to go sugar-free (and none of the gross fake sweetener either) for a month.  It was more a personal challenge to control my sugar intake.  Why really doesn't matter, because, I'll be honest, I made it about 72 hours... and these cookies are why.

So as many of you know, I've discovered the world of chocolate and mint, and it makes me incredibly happy.  After 72 hours of no sugar, my friend and co-worker AshLeigh showed up at school with these little beauties, and I walked by them three times before I'd justified that the sugar thing was way over rated and I was totally going to eat one.  I am SO glad I did!  These are better than thin mints my friend, on several different levels.

When I got the recipe from her, it wasn't long before I fixed them myself.  After realizing how incredibly easy these are to make, how few ingredients you actually have to 'shop' for, and the quantity of cookies, I asked her to share it with you, because, friends, secrets like these should NOT be kept!

So here's what you are going to need:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups chocolate chips (I used milk, but you could use whatever)
2 eggs
3/4 margarine
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 boxes Andes chocolate mints (and yes, you need TWO FULL BOXES, aka - don't let your husband thieve 6 or 7 because your last batch of cookies will suffer, friends, they will suffer)

So get in your pantry and get out that brown sugar and stick it in a saucepan with the margarine and water.  You are going to warm this over low heat until the margarine is completely melted.  I did a lot of stirring here, mostly because it makes me feel like I'm really cooking something ;)

When that gets all warm and melty, take all of those chocolate chips and dump them on in there.  Stir those in until all of those are completely melted.  Smell the goodness.  Go ahead, smell it...

I failed here because I skipped pictures for some time, but you'll get the drift...

Pour that chocolaty goodness into your mixing bowl.  Yes, your mixing bowl.  Pour it all in there and make sure you scrape that excess out.  Let it stand for ten minutes.  We are getting ready to add the eggs and the mixture is hot... let's not cook them.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.

Ok, ten minutes later - at HIGH speed beat in your eggs one at a time.  Reduce the speed to LOW and add your dry ingredients (the baking soda and flour) beating until blended.  I poured a bit in at a time while it was blending as to not have a huge flour grenade go off in my kitchen.

What you will have is a very sticky cookie dough unlike any you've seen before.  Don't panic.  That means it's right.

Now - take a load off, you're going to stick it in the fridge to chill for an hour.  Ready?  Go do it, and read a book or something...

After an hour - this is the fun part.  The consistency of your creation should now be a pliable but interesting enough... Get your hands dirty and grab you some teaspoons and make balls out of them.  (Don't judge my pizza pan... the cookie sheet already had a batch on them when I realized I hadn't taken the pictures :)  By the way, you DO want to cover your pans with aluminum foil and I sprayed a little pam - just for good measure.

Now - stick those babies in the oven and let them bake.  350 degrees for NO MORE than 12-13 minutes.  They will harden as they cool.

Now- here's another fun part (what can I say, these cookies are fun!) - grab those andes mints (I had mine all unwrapped and awaiting in a bowl close) and put one on top of each cookie.  Yep, before you even take it off the cookie sheet.  Then, get yourself a spoon and swirl that chocolate around when its good and melty... cover the top of the cookie as best you can.  (See, I had to break some mints in half to accomodate all of my cookies - more than 50 btw - and that is just too sparse for the mint portion of these cookies imo.)

And what you get is a little edible masterpiece like this.  Remove from the cookie sheet and let cool (and let your chocolate harden.)  Finally, enjoy!  Enjoy the cookie AND the fact that you can revel in better than Thin Mint cookies WHENEVER you want for way cheaper.

Yum Yum!  Eat up!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Pile of Stones

Proverbs 22:6 reads, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Before kids, and if I'm honest, for some time after having kids, this was my go-to raising children scripture.  Do 'a' and get 'b'.  I do my part, He does His.  Let's instill programs, go to a good church, pray before every meal, snack and bed and make sure to read them Bible stories over and over and over again.  That's what every kid needs.  He needs to be able to recall a Bible story.

Let's forget the fact that Aaron and I were in student ministry for many years and saw many students come through who, truth be told, probably 'knew' the Bible stories better than we did, yet were as far off from being Christians or to 'not departing from the way' than they could possibly be.  Let's also forget - then - the doubts that left on my raising my own children.  He's supposed to be faithful.  He says, "you do this," and He's supposed to do that! I struggled and battled with this for some time.  As a matter of fact, I'd say one of my greatest fears would be if my children never came to know the Lord, but there's a difference between Alicia now and Alicia then.  I'm trusting Him that HE changes hearts, not me, and I've allowed myself to take rest in parenting under Godly direction and trusting that He'll work all things out for His good.

But that doesn't mean He isn't going to use me in the lives of my children.  As a matter of fact, I'm finding a major bit of foundation for this Proverbs verse previously mentioned in other Old Testament text, and it continues onward in the New Testament.  Let me say that everything I'll mention from here forth is not an exhaustive text or list or group of ideas regarding parenting in scripture.  No - I'd call it just the shaved ice atop the very tip of the iceberg that God is spoon - feeding me bit by bit, but it's revolutionizing how I live and breathe and discuss the Gospel with my kids.

Now - I've discussed the 'shema'  before, but I'll touch here very briefly one more time, as this was the second major scripture God used in my parenting life.  The text is found in Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 and reads:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." 

The first direction is a direction to Israel - for our case specifically - parents.  You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might.  The lineage for people pressing hard after the Lord must start somewhere.  Here is a call to authentic, genuine, fierce, raw worship, when every sense of your being calls out and longs for the thins of the Lord and loves Him greatly.  From the offspring of that love comes the idea that His words and commandments would be on the heart of the people, but it's the next line that begins building the foundation for the "train up a child" verse that God began in me in Proverbs. 

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The idea here is that out of that fierce - consuming - love for the Lord resonates a lifestyle that communicates verbally (and we'll find several other ways as Scripture progresses) the goodness and the wonderful works of the Lord.  He says to discuss them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when  you rise.  Are we getting the gist here?  Always.  In all circumstances.  God is always in it.  Always a part of it.  Always handling it.  The author speaks further commanding physical markers in the home of God's word and law.  

What we'll find as we continue is that though this absolutely includes scripture, and we have lots and lots of scripture on our walls, it also includes experience, something I feel we often leave out.  

Here's what I mean. 

In student ministry we used to tell our kids repeatedly that their testimonies may not only be the only Jesus some people ever see, but that their personal experience with God is something that cannot be argued with by those who don't believe.  It's an experience and a perspective that cannot be taken away from them, and as I really dug into the context of these Old Testament scriptures, I'm seeing that God has performed many, many, many wonderful, miraculous works in the life of the Israelites.  It was so evident often times that Israel's enemies could see the mighty works of God and feared Him because of it.  It was then that I got it. 

This is the other thing we pass on to our kids, and our grandkids, and our great grandkids.  It makes the words of scripture and the stories of the Bible more than just words on a page.  It shows those with lesser experience how God has already moved (and is moving) in the lives of the people closest to them.  There's an idea of retelling the stories over and over and over again, so they are not forgotten.  Many - many - many times in the Old Testament we see God leading the people to set up monuments for specific events lest they not forget them.  I don't know about you, but this is good for myself as well.  Though I've seen God bring us in and out of many circumstances, and I've seen how His hand has faithfully guided us, it's amazing how it doesn't take much as far as life is concerned to make our little faith wonder if He'd ever been there to begin with.  I need those reminders in my life!  I need the writing on the wall that says, "LOOK WHAT HE'S DONE FOR YOU!  THIS was YOUR promise!  Your miracle.  This was HIM moving in YOUR life."  It's a reminder.

I'm reminded of Joshua 3 where the Israelites, who are finally getting ready to inherit the land God has promised them, must cross the Jordan river.  God performs yet another miracle in allowing the people to cross through on foot by stopping the water.  It's immediately after this in chapter 4 where God gives Israel the instructions of taking twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan - a reminder.  We read in verses 6-7:

That this may be a sign among you.  When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  So these stones shall be up to the people of Israel a memorial forever.

He repeats the same idea in Joshua 4:21-23 and continues the idea in verse 24 saying:

So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.

What's the purpose of the reminder?  So we may know the Lord is mighty and that we may fear Him forever... these are the traditions and teachings to pass on. 

What does this mean for me practically?  In all honesty, I'm still trying to figure that out on a large level, however, I know that it means that those scriptures that got me through difficult times in my life are finding their way to my walls, so that when the kids ask what they mean I don't just rattle off the theologically correct answer, but I tell them how God was faithful in working specifically in some way of my life.  I know it means that those little trinket things that we keep as 'souvenirs' from the insignificant events in our life, will be surrounded now by the physical reminders of the journey God has brought us on. 

Though I can't predict the journey that lies ahead of my children, I can build within them a history of the God who isn't just 'alive' in the pages of a book we read to them and in our words on Sunday morning, but of a God who is alive and well, working for our good in our lives specifically.  It then only becomes a matter of time before this God who works deeply and intimate in our lives becomes recognizable to our children in their own.  

Until next time -