Gift Giving – Music and Brownies

Brownies recipe

This was published in the December 2013 issue of Alamance Magazine.  I want to share it with you now, because it’s never a bad time for gift giving.

With love,

J

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Gift Giving

There’s so much that comes to mind with the term, gift giving. No matter what has crossed my mind to write about for you this month, I always go back to thinking about our gifts that we were blessed with and giving to others. Being giving of our personal gift is important to a happy society. Your gift doesn’t have to cost money. That’s the wonderful thing about gifts. You were blessed with your talents, and they were given to you, to pass on and bring joy to others.

 

EggsI remember growing up and singing in church for various occasions. It may have been for a birthday, a wedding, or just with the choir. But, one of my gifts was singing. It was and is something I can give freely to others. It was the priceless birthday gift I could give my grandparents. It was an irreplaceable gift.

There are a few gifts that I think people look over as just a “skill”. Our local firemen and police officers – they have the gift inside of them that allows them to save lives daily. The carpenter that volunteers with Habitat for Humanity – they have a gift and use it to build homes. The funny friend that you have – that’s a gift that allows them to bring a smile to so many others with just a simple joke. The beautiful friend that always remembers you on birthdays and holidays with the perfect card – they freely give their gift of love and remembrance. You know that shoulder you cried on last week? That person was gifted as a natural born comforter, and they never hesitate to use it.

Your gift could be just being a good motivator, an amazing hair stylist, or even a delicious cook. In short, I do believe that our talents were gifts we were given in the beginning of life. Sometimes we don’t know when those gifts will shine in us along our journey, but we have the choice to embrace them and share them with others whenever we can.

Sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone and sharing our gift can be scary, which can hold us back.

In the earlier part of the year, I volunteered at a local high school in their Exceptional Children class. I thought it would be a great way for me to share my gift of cooking with someone else – a way for me to bring joy to others. Little did I know, it would change my life.

It was like any other day when I woke up. Except this time, I was packing my car full of brownie making items. We weren’t Ingredients 2just going to make box brownies though, we were going to do it from scratch! I got loaded up and headed to the school. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never had an experience with a student with disabilities, and I certainly hadn’t been back in a high school since I graduated. Honestly, it was a little nerve-racking in many ways. I didn’t want to say the wrong things, do the wrong things, or hurt anyone’s feelings. After waiting uncomfortably at the front desk for a bit, I finally got into the room and met their teachers. Wow. They were amazing and explained everything to me before we entered the room. Maybe I looked nervous? It was a good possibility. That was until I was introduced to the students – those beautiful young people.

The teacher called their attention and introduced me. Every single one turned around and greeted me. They each told me their names, and we were off to the kitchen! One by one we packed into their kitchen, and one by one we went through the ingredients we were going to use. There were a few that found it fun to crack the eggs. Others decided it was fun to play in the flour and sugar. One in particular wanted to wash the dishes. With hardly any help from myself, we had the brownies mixed up and ready to go in the oven.

Brownies CookedThat’s when it hit me – I had brought too large of a pan! Oh, I was devastated inside! I so wanted this to be perfect for them. After one of the students sprayed the pan, the brownies were poured in the pan and set to bake. My heart sank. I knew they wouldn’t be nice chunky, thick brownies for these wonderful students once the batter was spread out in the pan. We did the dishes, waited a bit, and then the brownies were ready to come out of the oven. I pulled them out to cool for a few minutes before calling the class back into the kitchen. They were so flat. Sigh.

The teacher kept reassuring me that it was okay, because we knew they would taste wonderful. Napkin by napkin, little flat brownie by little flat brownie, they were all passed out to the students. It was about the time the last brownie was going out that I realized what this was all about. It wasn’t about just sharing my gift of cooking with these children; they shared their gift of love, kindness, and appreciation with me. Their smiles, hugs, and words all said the same thing to me – BEST brownies ever!

They didn’t need to be perfect by any standards to actually be perfect. They were made with love by every single one of those students and myself. It was about the time I took to share my gift that was so precious and wonderful to them. That afternoon I learned that a gift we are blessed with, is a gift that we are meant to share with others. So whether it’s a smile that you give freely, or a passion that you use to help others, it’s all about freely giving your gift. Pass it on.

Oh wait! I mentioned brownies! Hands down…the perfect brownies. Enjoy, and pass them along this holiday season as gifts!

 Brownies recipe

Fudge Brownies by KitchenAid

 

  • 1 cup margarine or 1 cup butter, softened and divided
  • 4 (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate squares
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnuts or 1 cup pecans, chopped

 

Directions:

 

(If you don’t have a KitchenAid mixer, don’t fret. The higher the number on the speed, just means you need to stir it more. Also, if you’d like to make a brownie that is a little more salty and sweet, use Sea Salt instead of regular salt and double to one teaspoon.)

 

  1. Melt 1/2 cup of margarine/butter and chocolate squares in a small saucepan over low heat; set aside to cool.
  2. Place remaining 1/2 cup margarine/butter, sugar and vanilla in mixer bowl.
  3. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer.
  4. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds.
  5. Turn to Speed 6 and beat about 2 minutes.
  6. Turn to Speed 4.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time, beating about 15 seconds after each addition.
  8. Stop and scrape bowl.
  9. Add cooled chocolate mixture.
  • Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds.
  • Stop and scrape bowl.
  • Add all remaining ingredients (flour, salt, nuts).
  • Turn to Stir Speed and mix until well blended, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour into greased and floured 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Cool in pan on wire rack and cut

Sundays with Friends: Wild Turkey in the Crock Pot

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I hit my two-year Anniversary this week since TheOnyxPlate.com was started. Woohoo!  What an amazing two years it has been with new places, new foods, and wonderful people I’ve met along my journey that has only just begun.  I can’t wait to reflect further on it for you in a post coming up (you know how I get all mushy about reflections and such). But, for now, we have a special Sundays with Friends to get to…Thanksgiving themed!

My very good friend surprised me with a Sundays with Friends centered around her son’s first kill of a Wild Turkey. She was so very proud, and I don’t blame her one bit! Good parents, good kid, good hunter. *smile* You might remember her first submission when she taught us about making Salsa. If not, you can read that one by clicking here. So on to her second Sundays with Friends! Welcome back, Jen! Can’t wait for your Peanut Butter Balls post either this year…hint hint. *wink**wink*

***Sidenote: I’m always happy to feature any of you on here. I just need a recipe, a short story about the recipe, and at least one photograph pretty please. You can email it all to TheOnyxPlate@gmail.com. Frankly…I’ll take any recipes! *smiles*

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In April 2012, my seven year old son and husband went turkey hunting. When they came home, my son had killed his first turkey. My son was so excited and wanted me to cook the turkey right away. I promised him that we would save it for Thanksgiving. He was happy and couldn’t wait to eat it at Thanksgiving. By him killing the turkey it saved us money from having to buy a turkey this Thanksgiving.

A week before Thanksgiving, I got a call from my mother-in-law inviting us to go out to eat on Thanksgiving. I told her that we already had plans to stay home and cook because I promised my son that I would cook his turkey.

The weekend before Thanksgiving my sister-in-law called to say that they would be able to attend our Thanksgiving gathering, and she asked if her husband could fix the turkey. I told her that was fine; however, I was still planning to cook my son’s turkey.

I was determined that I would cook this turkey regardless, which was all for my son that I love and adore.

Wild Turkey Crock Pot Recipe

  • 2 large turkey breasts
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom
  • 1 packet of onion soup mix
  • 1 small bag of baby carrots
  • 1 container of fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 1 ¼ cup of water
  • 1 can of turkey gravy

Directions:

Clean the turkey breasts and place them in a large crock pot. Add all of the ingredients on top of the turkey, except the turkey gravy. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until done. Check the crock pot often to see if more water needs to be added. Poor turkey gravy on top once done. Enjoy!

Would you like some Pudding, Puddin’?

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A shot of the Banana Pudding I made for Thanksgiving...

I know a lot of you have been asking me for my Banana Pudding recipe, but I’m just not sure I’m ready to give that up yet. Instead, I have a very easy Corn Pudding recipe you must make for your holiday dinners this season!

I took this two places this year for Thanksgiving, and both households absolutely swooned over it. Honestly though, it’s so simple, and it’s a Jiffy recipe. Beautiful food doesn’t have to be from scratch. It can be found in any recipe that your family loves, as long as it’s prepared out of love.

Of course you know I made a Banana Pudding for one Thanksgiving meal, but it may be a bit before I make another one. I made so many of them preparing for the Washington, D.C. trip. A recipe that was maybe made once or twice a year, became once a week for the month of October and beginning of November…too much sugar, and maybe why I started back on Weight Watchers last week. *smiles*

I truly hope you will try this delicious Corn Pudding that is so easy to make when everything else seems to be a hassle at most Holiday functions.

Jiffy Corn Pudding

  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 pkg. Jiffy corn muffin mix

Directions:

Beat eggs. Add melted butter, add sour cream, corn, and Jiffy mix. Put into 2 1/2 quart casserole. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees or until a golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

*Variation: Try adding some of these items…1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 2 fresh jalapenos (seeds and all), 1 chopped bell pepper (any color), or maybe even a minced fresh garlic clove. Get creative with it, and enjoy!

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Best tip I can give you for your food prep this season…Utilize your cooling racks in your fridge to maximize space.  They allow you to stack dishes in there that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to stack on top of each other.