These cookies walk into a bar: you need this recipe during your quarantine …

Two days ago found me taking everything out of the freezer so I could see what the heck was really in there. Actually I was looking for one last bag of frozen cherries from  summer’s bumper crop. There were no cherries left, but I did find two jars of frozen raspberry puree that were dated two years ago. They had been meant for jam, but, well, jam is not really my thing, and Mr. H.C. has been too busy to make jam. Yeah, for the last two years…

I took one jar out and let it thaw. Yesterday I used some in my breakfast smoothie, but these were quart jars, folks. Then I thought maybe I’d make a raspberry rhubarb pie, because, yeah, I found some rhubarb too. But the thought of making a pie crust was too daunting. I’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve been eating a lot. And I’ve been adventurous in trying out new recipes, but yesterday just wasn’t a day for pie crust. I’m sure you know what I mean.

During this quarantine, we’ve been working on the bathroom. Mr. H.C. has been doing the lion’s share of the work. I’ve been doing what I can, when I can, but today he is taking out the old toilet and probably replacing some of the floor that has rotted around it. That seemed like a rotten one-person job, so I thought I would make him a treat out of this raspberry puree. After all, he picked the berries, he made the puree, and he’s taking out the old stinky toilet; it’s the least I can do.

It took me awhile to find a recipe that passed muster. Quarantine kitchens are odd to cook from, you know. Some things you have, some things you don’t. And we’ve been trying to be good, and only go to the grocery store once a week. So when I found this recipe, it seemed to be a basic bar cookie recipe that could take a lot of changes. Feel free to change it up if you don’t have a jar of raspberry jam or puree in your pantry; but I just gotta say, that the raspberry and chocolate combo is REALLY DELICIOUS. Plus, I really like bar cookies. So easy. No spoons. No baking sheets. No 8-10 minutes and then do it all again. I really like bar cookies.

This is an old Cooking Light recipe. Here are the ingredients, with comments on how you can make this your own. This has no eggs, so it could easily be vegan if you use coconut oil instead of butter.

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup flour (I used regular unbleached because I had it, but often I use almond flour or coconut flour as a substitute, and I think that would work here too.)
  • 5 T. softened butter (I used 3 T. ghee and 2 T. coconut oil–any combo would be good.)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (Sugar. Ahem. I lost 25 pounds last year by not baking much, and when I did, I used Swerve or Lankato as a sugar replacement. I’m currently out of all sugars except some organic cane sugar I get from Aldi. So that’s what I used. I cut it back to 1/2 cup in the crust though, with no problem and I added a teaspoon of molasses to give it the brown sugar feel and taste.)
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla, or almond, or whatever goes with what you are making…
  • 10 oz. raspberry jam (So…I had puree. Which is runnier and unsweetened. So I took that 1/4 cup of sugar that I left out of the crust, and added it to the puree. It tasted good, so I went with it. The runny bit I just hoped wouldn’t matter, and it didn’t… Feel free to sub here. I think this was originally a type of date bar cookie, so you could add any kind of jam you have, or pumpkin, or applesauce, or cooked dates, or raisins… it can be your own jam…)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (Yeah, I didn’t have chocolate chips either… But what I did have was a Moser-Roth dark chocolate and sea salt bar from Aldi. I chopped up three of those little individually wrapped bars and got a heaping half cup. This is a lesson in using what you have. If you’re using applesauce or pumpkin, nuts would be good…)
  • I added 1/4 cup shredded coconut to the flour mixture. Cacao nibs would be good too if you like crunch.

Lightly grease an 8×8 pan and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together the flour, oats, salt, and soda and set aside.

Mix the softened butter/oils and sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla, and then add the flour/oat mixture and stir well. It will be crumbly.  Take out 3/4 cups of the flour mixture and add the chocolate chips. Here is where you can make any other additions as well–coconut, cacao nibs, nuts, etc.  Press the larger amount of the flour/butter mixture into the pan. Reserve the part with the additional ingredients–this will be the topping.

Pour the jam, fruit puree, applesauce, pumpkin, whatever you are using for the filling on top of the pressed in crust. Then sprinkle the reserved topping all over and pop into the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned or bubbly. Cool on a wire rack and cut into 16 squares for nice dainty bites, or 9 squares for a good dessert-sized bar. If you used chocolate, I would recommend serving after 30 minutes, while the chocolate is still melty…

I’m thinking that this recipe is going to be different each time I make it. The texture of the chocolate-raspberry is almost like a moist brownie. But with no eggs, I had to think about what gives it that deliciousness. The liquidity of the raspberry purée ran down through the crust and changed the texture in a wonderful way. I’m pretty sure the texture and thickness of the raspberry jam called for in the original recipe would give these bars more of a traditional date bar type feel.

In the interest of not wanting to give you all disinformation (Ahem. I could go into a rant here…) I made this same recipe the next day with my frozen pumpkin purée. This might indicate to you that, yes, we ate the whole chocolate raspberry pan very quickly. What else is there to do?

So I can verify that this recipe can take whatever substitutes you want to throw at it. The pumpkin version was made with half almond flour and half unbleached flour. The crust was delicious. Again, I only added 1/2 cup sugar and added the other 1/4 cup into the pumpkin puree. I did not add anything else to the pumpkin (except spices) but I’m also pretty sure, you could add eggs and cream and make it a pumpkin pie bar…)

I added cashews to the topping but any kind of nuts would be good. Except sunflower seeds. Don’t add sunflower seeds. I made that mistake earlier in my quarantine baking experiments. They turn your baked goods green. It doesn’t taste bad, but it looks moldy and unappetizing.

I think my next experiment with this recipe will be rhubarb/raisin. But peanut butter and grape jam might be good too… Hey, we’ve got time to try lots of combinations, don’t we?

Morning Coffee

Husband is an early riser.
He gets up early and stokes the fire
And makes the coffee
And puts my favorite mug
On the wood stove to warm.
Often he brings me the warmed mug
And sweet aroma
Today his gesture has pushed away
The clouds
And awakened the sun.

Today is the day to concentrate on the good. Look at this gift of time you’ve been given and don’t waste it.
Write that novel,
call that friend,
read that Bible,
paint that masterpiece,
build that bridge,
plant that seed….

Meanderings on Comfort…

We used to jokingly call him King Henry The First. He died on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a cat’s life, well lived.

I never felt right feeding birds while he was around; scattered bird seed was limited to very heavy snows when Henry was kept inside.

So in December I bought a small feeder, some suet and black sunflower seeds. I hung everything outside the mud room window where Henry had once liked to lurk in the bushes. It took the chickadees a few days; the juncos were next; and then a band of blue jays appeared and I knew we were in.

 

I stood at the window often in the early winter trying to get some good bird photos with my iPhone, but it made them nervous each time I moved, so eventually I gave up and just enjoyed watching them and keeping track of who visited. There was no Henry to hog the chair by the window, only the two humans who politely take turns…

 

Lately I’ve had time to stand quietly at the window again. Spring is here and the birds still seem delighted to be fed. Earlier this week I transplanted a dozen sunflower sprouts to a spot in the sun. Spring has come. Flowers are blooming. Fruit trees are starting to blossom. I have started seeds in eggshells and planted some peas and lettuces. The rhythms of nature have not changed, though the human world is now a discordant bang.  Or perhaps a better analogy is the door to the world we knew slammed shut.

Where is your comfort when so much has been taken away?

Cat lounging on porch swing

My big physical comfort was Henry. There’s nothing like a warm cat cuddling on your lap, purring at you, touching your cheek with his gentle paw… We decided to not get another cat until we came back from our ten day Scotland vacation in June… Yeah, that’s gone too… And now I have no cat to physically comfort me, and no Scotland to look forward to. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much; I know that. 

We all have lost our comfort-able-ness, haven’t we? Some of us have lost more than others, but we all can lament on what’s been taken from us. We can mourn (it’s okay to mourn our losses, no matter how small) and then we must find new ways to regain our comfort. (Just as an aside, I looked up ways, and the online definition is methods of reducing damage...) 

The word comfort made me pause the other day, as I considered where my comfort comes from…

And what came into my head were the words to one of the best loved praise songs ever written:

My comfort, my shelter,

tower of refuge and strength,

Let every breath, all that I am,

Never cease to worship you…

Shout to the Lord by Darlene Zesch.

If our comfort is in work, family, health, money, entertainment, friends, houses, skills? It’s all up in the air, isn’t it? On hold. That’s not to say, those aren’t good things, but they aren’t the best thing. Earthly treasures disappear. Quickly, as we have learned.

I don’t write about faith often. It’s a tricky thing, and one that I denied for much of my adult life. It’s an unseen, not-easy-to-prove way in our modern, rational world that needs proven science to be considered authentic.

Cat in window

But sometimes the mystery is what we need to cling to when other idols have turned to clay. (That’s a biblical metaphor, by the way…)

I know believers aren’t supposed to quote scripture to prove their beliefs, because what non-believer cares about the Bible? But this quote on faith is one that I’ve grown to love: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.–Hebrews 11:1. Faith is so personal, yet those of us who have it long to share it with those who need it. Because we know how it has changed our lives. For good. For better. For best. It doesn’t eliminate struggles or pain; it simply reminds us of God’s promises, reminds us to be grateful, reminds us to love, and reminds us that dying as a believer is not the worst thing — it is simply the beginning of a new journey.

Kitty looking over back porch

These days, if your comfort is cold, and you are thinking hard on what is important in your life, give faith a chance. Not all Christians are looney-toon right wing nut cases. :-) Some of us are probably your friends. We are struggling to make sense of all this too, but the three things we do have are comfort and hope and faith–the assurance that things unseen are truths we know in our hearts, our minds, our souls. And it gives us a glimpse, a gift of peace that’s not present in this earth-bound world.

 

Here are some places to meander:

Read this: The Gospel of Luke in the New Testament; Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; Letters from a Skeptic by Gregory Boyd, Corona Virus and Christ by John Piper; Be Still and Know that I Am God

Watch this: Hope in Times of Fear by Tim Keller;  A moment of Comfort by Kathy Troccoli;  Choose Faith, not Fear, a sermon by Nicky Gumbel

Listen to this: Shout to the Lord, sung by Darlene Zesch; In Christ Alone by Celtic Worship; No Longer Slaves sung by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser;  Finding God, sermon by Timothy Keller