Going Dutch

My dad spent a lot of time at Piedmont Hospital in the 80s. He had a kidney transplant in 1988 and between that and the visits before and after the transplant with his doctor’s office being at the hospital, I knew that place like the back of my hand. Across the street was an Original Pancake House. We used to stop in almost every time we went and I always got the same thing: a Dutch Baby and a side of strawberries and cream. I have some incredibly fond memories of those days and times with my dad and a German pancake is comfort food for me. That restaurant is now a CVS. There are other locations scattered about but now I just make them at home.

I use Alton Brown’s Recipe because it’s the best  I have found (duh, it’s Alton Brown) but I have just (not to toot my own horn but I’m totally tooting my own horn) improved upon it.

How, you ask? Well, that’s easy. Chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. And anyone who knows me knows that I’m a cocoa snob, so don’t go making this with Hershey’s, ok? That’s an order. Get thy browser over to King Arthur Flour and order thee a bag of Bensdorp Dutch-Process Cocoa before you start this recipe. Go on, I’ll wait.

Ok, so this is adapted from Alton’s recipe. He lives just a few miles from me so we’re on a first name basis. Well, we would be if he knew who I was (drop me an email, Alton and let’s go to the range and then have a beer!). He gets credit for the base recipe but making it better with chocolate is ALL ME! I mean, look at this, it’s beautiful. And it tastes phenomenal. The smell of the chocolate wafting through the air…mmmmmmmm. Because I added the strawberries and powdered sugar before taking the photo, the pancake had time to fall a bit. These babies don’t stay puffed up for long!

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Better Than Alton’s Chocolate Dutch Baby Pancake

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 T  all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Bensdorp cocoa (even if you don’t use the full-fat Bensdorp, at least don’t use the cheap stuff!)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 T milk (whole or 2% is fine)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar and cut strawberries, for serving (optional)
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan and heat the pan in the oven for 10 minutes, until it reaches cooking temp. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and set aside to cool slightly. Mix together the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter, and blend together. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend on high until smooth and frothy, 30 to 45 seconds. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and immediately pour the batter into the center. Bake for 19-23 minutes, do not open the oven while baking. The Dutch baby will puff up in the center and the edges will be dark and crispy. Serve warm topped with strawberries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
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Separation of Church and State…of Faith

I admit, I didn’t really “grow up” in the church. I went to vacation bible school many summers and was a part of a couple of youth groups and for awhile, my parents and I went to service at Fairburn United Methodist Church on many Sundays. I wasn’t unfamiliar with church. I had a decent amount of exposure. I just wasn’t a full-fledged “church person.” That was largely a result of my dad’s influence. He was very clear on his opinion that church often stood in the way of a relationship with God. One of his sayings was, “The biggest obstacle between man and his God is organized religion.” For a long time, I didn’t really understand that sentiment. I understood the words, but not in any really meaningful way. It stayed in the back of my head throughout childhood. Then, when I was 16, those words became real to me.

I was regularly attending youth nights at a sizable church in the town where I attended high school. I remember it being a good time and I think I got some good stuff out of it. But you see, I was still not baptized at that point and the pastor of that church approached me about it as well as about attending on Sundays and bringing my family. We began talking and he began selling and I immediately became resistant. I don’t like to be sold to. In fact, it’s one of the fastest ways to make me dislike a person and that has been true all my life. I don’t like to be pushed into anything. But, I listened respectfully. Until he got to a point in his preaching where he tried to convince me that I couldn’t have a relationship with God unless I went through the church.

To say I was immediately incensed is an understatement. He was telling me, in his preacherly way, that to get to God, I had to go through him. Oh. Hell. No. I let him have it. I explained to him that graduating from seminary and leading a church did not make him any better than me nor did it give him special privileges with or access to God.

Today, that preacher is still around and plenty of people fall all over him but I’m not one of them. I have no respect for him. It still gets my dander up when I think about it. Because, the net result was, that conversation turned me away from religion. And, for a long while, God.

In later years, I did put a toe back into the church waters and I was eventually baptized. When I was ready. But my underlying feelings on organized religion never really changed. I went for years waffling back and forth and eventually, I found a church where I felt very comfortable and I’ve had a pretty steady, healthy relationship with organized religion for a few years. I seemed to reach a realization with myself that church isn’t always about what you get out of it but what you can offer and that even though I may be at a bit of odds with it, I still have something to contribute on a larger scale.

But, I find myself back in that place again. having a real distaste for organized religion. Because, you see, it’s comprised of people. Fallible people, judgmental people, pious people, hypocritical people.

Now, I understand those characteristics are present EVERYWHERE, not just the church. We are ALL judgmental and hypocritical and it’s just plain funny when someone judges another for being judgmental – it’s judgment and hypocrisy all rolled into one – what a bargain!

I get that we all pick and choose parts of the Bible and that we all have our hot button issues. I do and you do too. You could say you didn’t but we both know that’s not true. And I guess one of my hot button issues is religious zealotry. Those who want to make sure everyone hears how often they pray and how well they know scripture and how many committees they’re on at church. It’s great to pray. It’s great to know the Bible and it’s great to be involved in helping others. And it’s okay that we know that you do those things. We just don’t want to be beaten over the head with them.

I sit back and think about all the problems I have with organized religion and the church and I can so easily see why the faithless have ZERO use for it. I’m full of faith and have a relationship with God but even I sometimes find myself downright disgusted with organized religion. I can only imagine how those without faith see it.

I fully admit that I’m not intimately familiar with the Bible. I haven’t read it cover to cover and while I know some scriptures and Psalms by memory, I can quote It’s a Wonderful Life with far more accuracy than I can most bible stories. Let me stop right here and ask you if you’re secretly thinking at this point that you’re a better Christian than I am. If so, I personally think you may not be comprehending those Bible verses you rattle off so well. But ok.

Back to the Bible. I happen to think it’s better used as a tool than a weapon but that’s just my opinion, based upon personal experience and observation. I’d actually be interested to know how many people were brought to faith using the tactics I find off-putting. I guess if you’re into being on the receiving end of condescension and guilt, then hallelujah.

And let’s talk about the church itself for a moment. Do we really think that God is pleased that the church is such a political monster? Do we think that God is pleased that churches are such big business-minded entities? I can’t imagine He’s okay with that. We spend so much time trying to make the church benefit us and bend it to our will that we end up kicking God out of it entirely. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t take kindly to being kicked out of my own house. I’m fact, I’m pretty sure I’d be really pissed about it. And we all know God can get really, really angry.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have personal convictions and boundaries. If the church is going in a direction which is strongly against your morals, then you should probably look for one which better aligns with them. But manipulating and maneuvering others to fit in to your brand of morality, I think, is ill-advised.

I’m not really sure where my relationship with organized religion will go. It’s in a state of flux right now, which is fitting seeing as my church is in a state of flux right now as well. I’d like for us to be at peace with each other and feel comfortable with it but time will tell. I can tell you though that seeing people splashing religious piety all over the place really doesn’t help. Convictions are one thing. Speaking for God is a little something different. He has the authority to condemn me to hell…you do not.

The church (and that includes all of us who consider ourselves a part of organized religion) has a choice – it can be an enhancement or a hindrance and so often, the latter is the result. Either way, the church will not affect my relationship with God. My faith will remain strong because I purposely separate the two entities. Organized religion is earthly. God is not.

Watermelon Salad

I love watermelon. Some of my best memories are of my dad bringing home a watermelon, cutting it in half and we’d sit in the den with our respective halves, towels across our chests, passing the salt shaker back and forth because just a little sprinkle brings the flavor out.

Last night, at our annual Stephen Ministry salad supper, someone brought a watermelon salad with olives and feta and red onions. It was delicious except for the olives. I hate olives. I didn’t quite get my fill of it last night so I picked up my own watermelon today and decided to make my own watermelon salad, with a few modifications.

watermelon salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t really have a set recipe here. I didn’t think I needed to measure anything out for something as simple as this. So, here’s what I tossed together:

Watermelon chunks
Feta cheese crumbles
Mint, chopped
Cipollini onions, diced small
Drizzle of EVOO
Splash of lemon juice (maybe half a lemon’s worth)
Dash of salt (I’d suggest sea salt)
Reduced Balsamic Glaze (you can buy or make this and for me, the more of it, the better)

Super refreshing, super yummy and super easy.

Nutella & Brie Panini

Who doesn’t love Nutella? If you answered, “Me,” then I don’t trust you. There’s got to be something wrong with anyone who doesn’t love Nutella.

The best Nutella I ever had was in Italy. My husband and I were in Venice and stayed at this gorgeous bed and breakfast called Locanda Orseolo right by San Marco. I ordered the Nutella crepes for breakfast each morning because, well, NUTELLA! But the Nutella was different there than it is here in the states. It was a little thinner and creamier and a tiny bit better. Those crepes were incredible and I still think about them, eight years later. I love everything Nutella.

There’s a new panini place where I live, Pressed Panini Bar, and they have this Nutella and brie panini. I tried it awhile back and it was pretty delicious. Brie is great paired with some sweetness and the savory and sweet combination is wonderful. I recently decided to try my hand at my own Nutella and brie panini. It turned out perfect.

Nutella and brie on ciabatta bread.

Nutella and brie on ciabatta bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutella & Brie Panini

Nutella
Brie Cheese
Ciabatta Bread
Fleur de Sel (or regular sea salt)

Slice ciabatta bread and spread Nutella on one side. Do not load it down too much, remember it’s going to melt and thin. Avoid spreading all the way into the bread corners. Sprinkle a little fleur de sel or regular seat salt on Nutella and then top with a slice of brie (either remove or retain the rind, as you prefer). Top with the top slice of bread and put it on the panini press until desired toastiness.

Pineapple Souffle

My mom lives a couple of hours north and when we go to visit, we often time it so that my brother and his family are up there too. We always have such a great time together. We spend most of the time in the kitchen. I  usually hate a crowded kitchen and prefer being in there by myself doing my thing but I don’t mind it up there. My brother usually is in charge of the meat and my sister-in-law and myself are doing side dishes and desserts.

A while back, during one of our visits, my sister-in-law starts pulling out canned pineapple, bread, sugar, eggs…I asked her what she was making and she told me it was pineapple souffle. I had never heard of it but supposedly it’s a southern thing. Whatever. I’m not really that “southern,” so I miss the boat on a lot of “southern” things.

Anyway, she commenced making this pineapple souffle and once we sat down to eat, I quickly discovered that it was DELICIOUS! I make it regularly now. I love it with pork and it works as either a side dish or a dessert.

Pineapple Souffle

Pineapple Souffle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 stick of butter (because that’s how all good southern dishes begin)

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

1/4 cup milk

6 slices of white bread (possibly a little more, depending on the size/thickness)

1 20oz can pineapple chunks, drained

1/2 T cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray an 8″x8″ (or similar size) baking/casserole dish. Heat butter in microwave until it’s mostly melted. Cream with sugar in large mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time, making sure that butter and sugar mixture aren’t warm enough to cook the eggs. Mix in milk. Tear bread into bite size chunks and fold into mixture. Add pineapple and fold it in as well. Add cinnamon and mix thoroughly, making sure all bread is soaked and pineapple is evenly mixed in. mixture should be loose but not soupy. If soupy, add another piece of chunked bread. Pour into baking dish.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Armed Lady is Kicking Butt and Taking Aim!

So, in my last post I talked a little bit about how I had left The Well Armed Woman in favor of a better alternative, Armed Lady. It’s already proven to be the best move I could have made. I’m staying incredibly busy but I’m greatly enjoying it and a sense of accomplishment is something I think we all like to feel.

I want to tell you a little bit about Armed Lady. It is required that all chapter leaders to be NRA Certified Instructors. This is a safety and proficiency issue. I just can’t see how it is safe for someone who’s just picked up a gun in the last month or two to take on a leadership role in teaching other women about firearms. The firearms industry is already so under fire from so many directions that we must make safety and responsibility a priority, so as to not give our opponents any reality in which to base their fears. While that may make it a little more difficult to find good leaders, that’s okay. Personally, I value quality over quantity and I know that Armed Lady, LLC does as well, which is one reason founder Stephanie Dodson-Turner requires NRA certification of all chapter leaders of her Premier Shooting Chapters.

In my short time so far with Armed Lady, I have found things to be organized and structured. Even though the organization is still in its early stages, I value that there has not been the chaos as I have experienced in other organizations. I appreciate not feeling as though I am flying by the seat of my pants with no structure. It became clear to me very quickly that Stephanie’s priorities are straight and her intentions are true and this shows. That is also evident in way that she has been very receptive to suggestions and feedback. One of the signs of a strong leader is being able to listen to others.

I feel comfortable that I need not worry about the ethics and morals of the founder of Armed Lady. I greatly value integrity and when I support any organization, it is important to me that I feel whoever is spearheading such organization be of good character.

I say all of this to convey to you that not only am I comfortable supporting Armed Lady, LLC but I also feel comfortable encouraging other women to join and support Armed Lady, either as a member of one of our Premier Shooting Chapters or as a Chapter Leader.

If you are looking for an encouraging, supportive and organized environment for women shooters, I highly recommend that you investigate Armed Lady. You may visit the website or you may also feel free to email me at e.finch@armedlady.com for more information.

 

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*I am receiving nothing for this endorsement except for the satisfaction of supporting an organization which supports a cause in which I believe. It should be very clear to all my readers at this point that I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment (with no buts) and I strongly support women having a place and a voice among its defense.

 

This Girl is on FIRE!

This Girl is on FIRE!

I have been tremendously busy lately. And all fired up. There have been many changes in the last couple of weeks. The first being I have discontinued my association with a certain purple-themed women’s shooting organization. Long story short, my time with them showed me that the organization’s founder was not someone I was comfortable being affiliated with for numerous reasons. That being the case, I also could not, in good conscience, encourage anyone else to be a part of her organization. I had determined I would be leaving back in December and such decision was consistently reinforced from that time until I left on April 17th.

I spent the last few months biding my time, trying to figure out a solution or find an alternative. Disbanding my chapter was not an option for me, as I had made a commitment to my ladies. This was a group which I built all on my own and I’d worked hard to develop it. I spent a lot of time and my personal money and throwing it away wasn’t a consideration for me.

God provides. I finally discovered a wonderful alternative. I had to sniff it out and hunt it down like a dog but I found it. I’ll share more about that later when the time is right. It’s a brand new organization and we’re working hard to get everything rolling. What I love about it is that it’s being built with integrity and a greater purpose. I’m so happy to be a part of it and I’ll be sharing more soon. But suffice to say, I have been working my tail off, happily.

Another wonderful thing that has happened is that HB 60, the Safe Carry Protection Act, was signed last week! I was invited to the signing but prior commitments kept me from going. It would have been fun to be there but the important thing is that come July 1, Georgia will be a much safer place to live.

And, speaking of a safer Georgia, I’ve been sitting on some other information for months that can finally be shared. Another bill, HB 826, was signed into law yesterday. While on the surface this bill makes great strides to remove the silly “zero-tolerance” policies in schools which have ended up in expulsion for kids with items such as seat belt cutters in their car on school campus, it does far more than most understand. This bill also decriminalizes campus carry.

Yes, you read correctly. Come July 1, campus carry will now be decriminalized for those with a valid Georgia Weapons License. Understand that it’s been kept quiet for obvious reasons but also please know that nothing was hidden. The bill has always been available for anyone’s survey and study as all bills are. Nothing was hidden or snuck in at the 11th hour. It passed the House unanimously and the Senate with all but two votes in the affirmative. I and others who were familiar with this bill have been encouraged to remain quiet about it though, as any extra attention to it could have derailed the bill in its entirety.

While the language is a bit confusing, I encourage you to read it. I would also encourage common sense and good judgment come July 1. Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should and we should all strive to be responsible citizens and balance rights with responsibility. Walking onto a college campus open carrying on July 1 isn’t something I would advise and would outright discourage. The two laws, HB 60 and HB 826 will need to be merged when writing the new code sections and there will inevitably be test cases to establish case law, so be smart here, I plead of you.

Here is the link to the full text of the bill.