Hey look – I found another site to doodle on

Gotta love stumbleupon. No, this is not going towards my 100 hours of art, since I spent all of three minutes playing around đŸ™‚

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/17CWN7/andrew.thenewhive.com/drawonme/

Protected: Indistinct conviction?

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Baking is awesome – Chocolate Cheesecake with Mint Chocolate Ganache in a Thin Mint crust

I’ve “discovered” that I love baking. I use the quotations because I’ve always enjoyed “baking”, but I always stuck to box mixes of brownies and cakes and cookie logs. I use quotations there because now I would hardly consider that baking. There’s no sense of creativity in following the recipe on the back of a box where most everything is already mixed together. But once you start making everything from scratch, you start to learn what the role of each ingredient is and why it’s important. You learn why it’s important to add baking soda and salt to a cake, or why sometimes butter is just better than margarine in certain things and doesn’t matter so much in others. You start to learn what flavors compliment others and what ones will spoil a recipe.

Once you get to this point, it starts to get fun. You can begin to experiment without fear of completely ruining everything because you have a basic understanding of the chemistry behind it. You feel totally comfortable swapping vanilla extract for lemon extract, or taking a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe and turning it into something original, like butterscotch pistachio cookies.

It’s seriously fun!

So it’s the Girl Scout Cookie time of year, and we bought a box of thin mints, which I’ve always loved. So I thought I would make a chocolate cream pie and use the thin mints as the crust. Then I thought a chocolate cheesecake would be even more awesome. The beautiful part about it is that I don’t even really like cheesecake all that much, I just like making things to have other people enjoy.

So right now, I am making a chocolate cheesecake with mint chocolate ganache in a thin mint cookie crust for housechurch tomorrow. Here are the recipes I am basing it on (I’ve crossed out and modified the bits that I changed):

Pie Crust (pretty basic, don’t need a recipe for this):  Preheat oven to 350. 2 cups (ish…a box, basically) finely ground thin mints mixed with enough melted butter to make it stick. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.

Chocolate Cheesecake (from AllRecipes.com):

  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, I used Philadelphia Kraft Indulgence in Dark Chocolate – softened
  • 1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk (any brand works, but that’s most common)
  • 2 1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 4 large 3 jumbo eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • I also added 1tbsp almond extract

In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in EAGLE BRAND® until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 65 minutes or until cake center is set. Cool to room temperature. Chill thoroughly. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Chocolate Mint Ganache:

  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped Andes Creme De Menthe baking chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
  1. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired.
  2. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake. Start at the center of the cake and work outward. For a fluffy frosting or chocolate filling, allow it to cool until thick, then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.

And the results?

It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it's tasty

(I should note that I made two cheesecakes but only had enough thin mints for one crust…so the one pictured here is a regular graham cracker crust)

Prayer for forgiveness

My Pastor used this prayer in a sermon a few weeks ago. Sometimes (often) other peoples words do a better job than my own. I am not sure of the author (can prayers have “authors”?)

Merciful Lord,

Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,

all the sins of my life,

sins of early, middle, and advanced years,

of omission and commission,

of morose, peevish and angry tempers,

of lip, life and walk,

of hard-heartedness, unbelief, presumption, pride,

of unfaithfulness to the souls of men,

of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ,

of deficiency in outspoken zeal for his glory,

of bringing dishonor upon thy great name,

of deception, injustice, untruthfulness in my dealings with others,

of impurity in thought, word and deed,

of covetousness, which is idolatry,

of substance unduly hoarded, improvidently squandered,

not consecrated to the glory of thee, the great Giver;

sins in private and in the family,

in study and recreation, in the busy haunts of men,

in the study of thy Word and in the neglect of it,

in prayer irreverently offered and coldly withheld,

in time misspent,

in yielding to Satan’s wiles,

in opening my heart to his temptations,

in being unwatchful when I know him nigh,

in quenching the Holy Spirit;

sins against light and knowledge,

against conscience and the restraints of thy Spirit,

against the law of eternal love.

Pardon all my sins, known and unknown,

felt and unfelt,

confessed and not confessed,

remembered or forgotten.

Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.

Amen.

95 Hours of Art

I spent the first 5 hours of my 100 Hours of Art learning a completely new art form: needle felting!

My friend’s mom hosted a felting class at her house in Vermont, so we both thought that sounded like a fun thing to learn. Basically, you start with a poof of clean, undyed wool, like these:

This wool makes up the bulk of the shape, and you can add dyed wool to it later. Dyed wool tends to be more expensive, so it makes sense to use this as the ‘filling’.

The needles, like the ones shown here, have little tiny, barely visible barbs along the sides. For quick work, you’d want more barbs, for meticulous detail work, less. And these needles are VERY sharp! Every single one of the seven ladies doing the class, myself included, drew blood at least once. Here’s a close up of a couple of needles:

See the barbs? Scary little things.

Anyway, you start with a ball of wool, and every time you stab the needle into it, it tangles up the wool fibers more and more until it becomes a firm mass of knots in the shape of your choosing. In our case, we made sheep! I won’t bore you with all of the details, but the process basically looks like this (only much slower).

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the process, but here is the final product!

Now that I know how to do it, I am dying to make this little guy. Too ambitious, maybe?

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
(Psalm 10:1 ESV)

“The presence of God is the joy of his people, but any suspicion of his absence is distracting beyond measure.” –Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

This is what I love most about the Psalms; the sheer humanity of it! The Psalmists are bold and honest and so authentic in their prayers to God, in a way that I rarely see anymore. For a few months now I have been seriously and honestly evaluating my relationship with my God in terms of my own authenticity. At some point or another, everyone has doubted God’s presence, that he was near and present. I think they’d be fooling themselves (or perhaps trying to fool God) if they didn’t admit that. I know I have felt like that, many times. Yet I continued to pray as though nothing were different, as though I wasn’t feeling the way that I was feeling.

But look at the Psalmist here! “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?” When I read this, I can almost feel his uneasiness, his restlessness, even his desperateness over the thought of God being far away and indifferent to his struggles. He’s not being disrespectful. He’s being authentic.

I want to be authentic. I don’t want to gloss over the rough spots of my life. I want to be real and honest with God and in all of my relationships. I want to be real.