As I have shared on this blog before, my Hubby calls me The Giving Tree. It seems lately I’ve seen lots of quotes that have to do with happiness being related to doing for others. For instance this was on a recent blog post from Richard Branson: “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
We have opportunities at every corner to help don’t we? On Tuesday I was at a midday mass and the priest put out a request that someone needed some home cooked food. He didn’t ask people to officially sign up for it, just to drop it in the rectory and they would sort it. So yesterday morning I decided to go ahead make a meal (steak, potatoes and green beans). I also added to the helping hamper, as I coined it, some of my famous Lemon-Aid and goodies (Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies and the banana loaf I had made from the Women’s Crush Wednesday). I realized I hadn’t shared my recipe for the Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies so decided today I would share that and an interesting encounter I had after I dropped off the food.
First of all I have to say that when we feel called to help others it doesn’t come with a guarantee of a grateful response. Or if the help is refused, it doesn’t necessarily come with a gracious decline. So the story goes that I dropped off the food at the rectory before going into mass. Then I had to pop over to the post office for an errand before I went back home. On my way a young Asian man approached me asking for money so he could buy something to eat. I took that request in and stood there with him for a moment. How could I say no when I had just done a favor for someone else I don’t know because a priest asked? But I don’t always feel right just handing over money to someone that may or may not be hungry (and it’s not always a hunger for food my friends, it can be for other unsavory things). I responded to him by saying, “I’m sorry you are hungry, let me go get you something to eat.” Now I wasn’t going to go home and prepare another dinner given the fact that I would have needed to go grocery shopping again, and I sensed from his anxious body language that he was in a bit of a time crunch. So I popped into the nearest food shop called Greggs (I’d never been there before) and bought a sambo and crisps (that’s chips for my American friends). When I went back out, the guy was literally just getting an older woman to give him a 5 pound note/bill. As I handed him the food he said, “I’ll take the chips, I don’t want the sandwich” and turned around and walked away. The lady and I stood there watching the guy and we shook our heads. Okay then. So maybe he was a coeliac who didn’t eat bread? But the point I am making is that sometimes these interactions are really just a test for us, a sort of teachable moment. And one thing I learned, after I went home and had that sambo for lunch, is that Greggs isn’t that bad!
While I was finishing the last bite, I got a phone call from the priest. While we are so new to the parish, I surely didn’t expect him to call or even know me. He has greeted Hubby and I after we’ve attended Sunday mass. But he does that with loads of people. However, he got a glimpse of the foodie hamper I delivered and he just wanted me to know how much he (and the person who would be receiving it) appreciated the gesture. He was effusive in his thanks! I felt compelled to tell him the story of the man I met on the street. And he agreed that we need to give to others, even if we don’t know what to do with the responses. Who knows what that Asian guy is going through. Maybe just showing him a little care, stopping what I was doing and going into a shop to get him food (whether or not he only took half of it), might leave an impact. Who knows.
Hubby told me of a time back when we lived in L.A. that he was approached by a homeless person asking for money. He gave the money with the caveat that the person buy food not alcohol. Sadly, Hubby saw the man shortly thereafter going into the store to buy, what else, alcohol. I used to think that local communities should have a voucher system whereby citizens that want to help could donate to a “group-on” like place and get coupons to hand out to people in need. Participating businesses would redeem the coupons/vouchers from the needy folks whether it be for a meal, a coffee, a hotel room, whatever. I might have another look at my idea especially in light of the European refugee migrant crisis. Some people need help. Other people want to help. But how to combine the two in a dignified way? Often times people are very generous to charities donating money or buying raffle tickets for fundraisers etc, yet still feel guilty when approached by someone on the street. If they have in their wallets and purses these vouchers, which they have received from making a donation, then they know it is going to help in a positive and productive way. They won’t worry that any cash they hand out is going into the purchase of a liquid, pill or herb that will just go down the hatch perpetuating the problem.
It is hard to just walk by someone on the streets who is looking desperate and not do anything for them. The awkwardness of avoiding them, not making eye contact, ignoring them as if they don’t exist. Or else passing a look of disgust at what they have let themselves become. As I said in my story about my mom, sometimes I think, what if she is one of them? There is a saying, “There but for the grace of God go I” credited to an Englishman named John Bradford. I don’t know about you, but I think about these things. It makes me grateful for what I have and also strive to help others. Cooking and baking are two things I know I can do to help others. It won’t solve the world’s problems, but it gives me a bit of peace knowing I can put my love into my food and then share that with them. A package of cookies purchased at the store that was made in a factory just doesn’t have that love in them. Sure they may taste good, but you could eat a whole pack and not feel satisfied. In my opinion, only things made with love and care in them make you feel truly satisfied. That is why so many people reminisce about their mom or grandma’s cooking! It is the love that feeds our soul! So into the kitchen I go!
These peanut butter cookies are not only delish on their own, but I add a little “sumpin, sumpin” to them by drizzling them with melted chocolate and sprinkling them with crushed pretzels. Then you get the perfect combo of sweet and salty! Or you could just put chocolate chips in them if you want . And if you are really adventurous like I am, you can make them into ice cream sandwiches by putting a scoop of your fav or homemade ice-cream in between two cookies. Bam! Now we are talking! Not that you need any prodding, but if you read this post here, you will see why I LOVE to cook and bake with the pretty paste I like to put on a pedestal ! And in this post you will see how I try to incorporate peanut butter into my daily life even lending a hand with my morning porridge ! Ha ha!
Peanut Butter Cookies
240 g crunchy peanut butter
340 g Plain Flour (sifted)
200 g Caster Sugar
200 g Soft Brown Sugar
225 g Unsalted Butter (if using regular butter just omit the salt)
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Large free range eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Optional: chocolate chips and/or melted chocolate and crushed pretzels
Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F
Combine the sifted flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugars in a mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and add the eggs one at a time stopping in between to scrape down. Then add the vanilla and peanut butter and mix well.
Add to the mixer the flour/salt/bicarb soda combo in stages and scrape sides of the bowl in between. It is done when well combined and a nice dough has formed. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper (or on a silicone baking pad) in balls. Then using a fork press down on the balls. Only bake about 6-9 cookies per tray so they don’t spread into each other.
Bake for approx 10 minutes. Let them sit on the baking tray for a few minutes after you remove them from the oven before you transfer them to a wire rack. When fully cooled drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with broken pretzel pieces. You can place in the refrigerator if you want to harden the chocolate quicker, otherwise let the chocolate cool at room temp.
And if you are the adventurous type then you can make up your ice cream sandwich! No one will refuse these sambos that is for sure! A helpful hack is to slice up your ice cream carton and then you have the perfect portion to go in between each cookie.
Guaranteed you will love these Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies so much you’d eat them in one bite if you could. Just be careful that you don’t bite the hand that is feeding you!
Sweet and Salty Love!