40 Days

Miller Family

What would you do if you had 40 days left to live?

I would gather my family and friends a little closer and let them know how much they have blessed my life. I would say “I love you” much more often. I would spend more time on Facebook so that I could know a little more about the lives of my friends. I would tell them, every chance I could, how amazing they are. I would savor rich, dark chocolate and give thanks for the farmers who can care for both the crop and their families because they are paid a fair wage.  And while I sip my morning cup of freshly roasted coffee I would wrap myself in a Kantha and pray with tear-filled eyes for the women whose stories are stitched into these colorful saris and for the many more women who are still waiting for hope to come to them. I would wear a piece of fair trade jewelry and laugh for the joy of the fact that a woman’s life has forever changed by this simple act of love and dignity. I would fill the table with love and spices and I would share and love and share some more. I would stop my day’s work a little sooner and stress less about the profit and loss report. I would stand in awe, in a world of snow and build a snowman with my son. In our imaginative fun, we would save the world from bad guys and maybe, just maybe, in real life he would realize he is a hero too. I would take in the joy and the fullness of the life I have. At the end of each day, I would gather my family around, turn off the lights, put away the electronics, light some candles and give thanks.

Savor. Remember. Enjoy. Love. Speak. Hug. Cry. Laugh.

And they would be the 40 best days of my life.

Lent. Celebration. Life.

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!