Lenten Rememberings – Somalia

P1350026 Today we remember Somalia. This country on the horn of Africa is the world’s third largest source of refugees . According to the UNHCR, a third generation of Somalians are being born in exile. Nearly three decades of civil war, border clashes, fighting clans, and famine have practically bankrupted the economy. Over one million Somalians are refugees in nearby countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen while many more remain displaced within Somalia. Most of them rely on foreign aid for the most basic of needs such as food, health care and water. While nearly 100,000 Somalian Refugees have entered the US in the last 6 years, the current Travel Ban is prohibiting any more from entering at this time.

It was hard to reconcile the delightful flavors of Surbiyaan, a Somalian Rice and Chicken dish that we ate with a Caulifower Curry, with the harsh realities of what life is like for those who remain in Somalia. We wrapped up our meal with Quadret Qadar, which means made by a miracle, which seems fitting for this country in dire need of a miracle.


No Dark Secrets Please!


Fair Trade Chocolate Chip, Pecan Brownies

Fair Trade Chocolate Chip, Pecan Brownies

The shelves at the store seem to be sagging these days with the load of candy piled on them. From one store to another, one holiday to another, one ad to another, there’s not much difference. Oh the color of the wrappings change and the words used to lure us to buy lots of sugary “goodness” change according to the theme of the holiday, but underneath all the wrappings, there’s not much difference. I don’t know about you, but I get a little weary of it all.

It wasn’t always this way; I used to to be charmed by chocolate in any way, shape or form. I was pretty shocked, about 5 years ago, when a friend told me he didn’t buy chocolate because of the slavery issues surrounding it. I had no idea that such a sweet little item had such huge controversy behind it. It was appalling to me there were indeed many cocoa plantations in West Africa, in particular, which were run by slaves, often children. The more I researched, the more I became convinced that this was something I could no longer turn a blind eye to. For starters, our family simply began by eating a lot less chocolate. At the same time, I discovered a growing number of fair-trade companies who are sourcing their cocoa from farmers who are paid a fair wage and producing amazing chocolate. It was not a difficult decision to make the switch!  I fell in love with the baking cocoa from Equal Exchange. Not only can I feel good about my purchase, I believe the quality is far superior to other brands making it well worth the price. The most difficult thing to make the switch in for me was chocolate chips. Fair trade chocolate chips are hard to come by and are costly. As a compromise, I opted for organic chocolate chips for a time, since organic farmers are subjected to a lot of screening and it is less likely that slave labor is used on these farms. This past fall, I was thrilled to discover that Equal Exchange had begun selling chocolate chips! And are they good! A friend of mine didn’t believe me until she tasted what I’m about to share with you.

Fair trade, chocolate and baking are big passions of mine. I’ve combined all three and come up with a recipe that I want to share with you, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

No Dark Secret Brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup fair trade baking cocoa
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 – 1 cup fair trade chocolate chips

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the oil and baking cocoa. Cook for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Beat eggs and vanilla. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla, mixing just until combined. Sift the flour and gently stir in. Add the pecans and chocolate chips. Avoid over-mixing. Pour into a greased 9×13″ baking pan. Bake at 350 for 30 -40 minutes, until a toothpick an inch or two from the edge comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.

Don’t fight over the corner pieces!

Joy in Simple Things

Mulberries on tree

Mulberries growing in our wild backyard.

Summer is here with its warm happy days! The kids are embracing summer vacation with a gusto! Staying up late, sleeping in late, running around outside like wild hooligans, with banged up knees and insect bites to prove it. Today the favorite past time was to turn themselves into human boxing bags. One of them would don their dad’s shirt, stuff a big fluffy pillow inside and the other would run at him, throwing punches and practically snorting with laughter! They chased each other in circles in the yard, in and around my raised garden beds where the tomatoes are flowering and the basil has finally pushed above ground and is joining the cilantro and peppers.

It’s a season of doing things together. Granted, it does distract me when I sit down to write, not to mention that I share the computer with three boys who can’t play enough Minecraft! Needless to say, some things are being pushed aside for the moment so that we can pick strawberries, plant sweet corn or go to the library. …or teach my 13 year old to clean windows (my idea, not his). …or go to garage sales. …or eat a popsicles on the deck. …or visit the Mulberry Tree. That is a frequent event these days. Today when we were out picking, a gentleman stopped his car and asked if they can be eaten. It made me wonder how many other people may be seeing these plump purple berries on trees yet not know what to do with them. Here is what I did with them today and it made for a very happy family!

Mulberry Cobbler

Mulberry cobbler already half-eaten

Mulberry Cobbler

  • 4 cups mulberries, gently rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter or lard
  • 1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk

Combine the water, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook until thickened and clear. Add the mulberries and  cook for 1 minute,stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Remove from heat and pour into a 9×9″ baking dish.

For the biscuit topping, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles small crumbs. Add the yogurt and milk, mixing gently just until moistened. Drop by spoonfuls on top of the fruit mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of additional sugar. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes.

Note – I just throw the berries in, stem and all, as they are edible. If you want to remove the stems, I would suggest clipping them with a kitchen scissors, as it is difficult to pull them off unless they are frozen.