Great British Bake Off Fantasy League – Week 6

We had to take a week off after this heartbreaker! But we are back and ready to talk about the emotional “Japanese Week.” Get ready for us to be confused by matcha and irate at the disdain people had for pickles! Plus, Heather shares a quick tip for making your bakes vegan with her Apple Bread recipe!

Vegan Apple Bread

2 cups – brown sugar

3/4 – cup oil

Substitute for 3 eggs – 3 tbsp flax meal and 3/4 cup water

3 tsp – vanilla extract

3 – medium apples, peeled cored and diced

2 cups – all purpose flour

1 cup – whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp – salt

1 tsp – baking soda

2 tsp – cinnamon

1/4 tsp – nutmeg

1/4 tsp – ground cloves

Beat flax meal and water together for 2 minutes. Combine in oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix in apples. Whisk together dry ingredients in separate bowl, add to the wet mixture and stir until just combined. Bake in 9×13 pan at 350 for 40-50 minutes until middle is springy to the touch.

Great British Bake Off Fantasy League – Week 5

Hold on to your soggy bottoms because it is “Pastry Week.” Can Linda maintain her winning ways in the technical challenge? Will someone repeat as Star Baker? We are halfway through the competition, so things are getting a little stodgy! Get ready for an update on the Fantasy League and we debate how to pronounce a certain candy bar favorite. Plus, Heather is embracing fall with some “Pumpkin Spice Latte” cookies!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies with a “Pumpkin Spice Latte” variation

1 cup – canned pumpkin

1 cup – white sugar 

½ cup – vegetable oil

1 – egg

2 cups – all-purpose flour 

2 tsp – baking powder

2 tsp – ground cinnamon

½ tsp – salt

1 tsp – baking soda

1 tsp – milk

1 tsp – vanilla extract

2 cups – semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup – chopped walnuts

Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts. For “Pumpkin Spice Latte” variation, fold in 2 tbsp instant coffee before baking. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Great British Bake Off Fantasy League – Week 4

Dust off your “Chocolat” DVD’s because it is “Chocolate Week”!! We have got to say this is by far the most emotional episode of the season up to this point. Our first heavy hitter went home and there was yet another new Star Baker! Plus, the bakers clue us in on what they’re celebrating in the tumultuous 2020 and Heather shares her thoughts on Banana Bread with her signature Chocolate Banana Bread recipe!

King Arthur Flour’s Fudge Brownie Recipe

Heather’s Chocolate Banana Bread

1/4 Cup – Unsalted Butter (Softened)

1 Cup – Brown Sugar

1 – Egg

4 to 5 – Ripe Bananas

2 Tsp. – Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup – All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup – Baking Cocoa

1 Tsp. – Baking Soda

3/4 Tsp. – Salt

1 Cup – Chocolate Chips (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in egg, vanilla, and mashed bananas. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl. Stir into banana mixture until just combined along with chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan or 9″ round. Bake for 25-30 minutes based on depth of pan. For muffins, bake for 16-18 minutes.

Great British Bake Off Fantasy League – Week 3

Time for the bakers to “prove” themselves because it is “Bread Week”! Who got a Paul Hollywood handshake this week? Whose bread rose to the occasion? And how did Heather’s Lemon Cheesecake turn out? Find out all of this and more in a jam packed episode! Plus, Heather shares her recipe for her hotly sought after Oatmeal Creme Pies!

Oatmeal Creme Pies

Cookie

1 Cup – Unsalted Butter (Softened)

2 Cups – Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp. – Molasses

2 – Eggs

2 Tsp. – Vanilla Extract

1 Tsp. – Baking Soda

1 1/4 Tsp. – Salt

2 Tsp. – Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp. – Nutmeg

1/4 Tsp. – Ground Cloves

2 Cups – All Purpose Flour

3 Cups – Quick Oats

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, and molasses. Mix in baking soda, salt, and spices until thoroughly combined. Mix in flour until just combined. Mix in oats until just combined. Scoop dough onto greased cookie sheet vary size based on how big you want pies. Cookies will spread significantly. Flatten cookie dough before bake. Bake for 7 minutes. Cookies may appear under-baked. Allow them to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Allow cookies to cool completely.

Cinnamon Buttercream Filling

1 Stick – Unsalted Butter (Softened)

4 Cups – Powdered Sugar

2 to 4 Tbsp. – Milk or cream

2 Tsp. – Vanilla or Bourbon

1/2 Tsp. – Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp. – Salt to taste

Whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and 2 tbsp. of milk. Begin whipping and medium high speed. Add additional milk as desired for lighter, fluffier icing.

Sandwich buttercream between two similar sized cookies with 1 to 3 tbsp. of buttercream depending on size of cookies and personal preference. Allow sandwich cookies to rest for 15 to 30 minutes so icing can set before serving.

Great British Bake Off Fantasy League – Week 2

It is “Biscuit Week”! Or is it “Cookie Week”? You know we have things to say about those snap happy British cookies. Maybe we’re too soft in America! There was a MAJOR shocker this week for Star Baker. Plus, Heather shares a lot about her favorite cookies and about the Lemon Cheesecake she’s baking this week!

Lemon Cheesecake

Crust

1 1/2 Cups – Graham Cracker Crumbs

1/2 Cup – White Sugar

Zest of two Lemons

1/2 Cup – Butter (Melted)

Combine crumbs, sugar, and zest until thoroughly mixed. Pour melted butter over mixture and stir until butter is evenly distributed. Pressed evenly into bottom of a 9″ or 10″ springform pan.

Filling

5 – 8 ounce blocks of softened cream cheese

5 – Eggs

2 – Egg yolks

1 1/12 – White Sugar

1/8 Cup – Flour

1/4 – Cup heavy whipping cream

Zest of three lemons

1 Tbsp. – Lemon Juice

Combine cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Add sugar, flour, and heavy cream until smooth. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and mix until just combined. Pour filling over crust. Place in a COLD oven then turn heat on to 225. Bake for three hours rotating pan after an hour and a half. After three hours, check if cheese cake has risen significantly and is springy but firm. Edges would be lightly golden. Add bake time as needed. Turn off oven and allow cheesecake to cool as oven cools. Remove after one hour, allow to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving.

Great British Bake Off Fantasy League – Week 1

GBBO is back!! This is exactly what 2020 ordered, right? Join us as we recap “Cake Week” with all of it’s ups, downs, and controversies! Who are this year’s bakers? Who made it onto our teams? Who could be on yours? We talk about why we like cake for very different reasons and wonder together if GBBO is headed in a dangerous, American direction with Cake Week. Heather also shares her tips for amazing Pumpkin Spice Donuts!

Pumpkin Spice Baked Donuts

3 eggs 

3/4 cup oil 

2 15oz cans plain pumpkin purée 

2 tsp vanilla extract 

2 cups brown sugar 

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder 

3 tsp cinnamon 

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves 

1/4 tsp ginger 

1/4 tsp allspice 

2 cups white flour 

1 cup whole wheat flour 

Mix wet ingredients with sugar until smooth. Add in baking soda and baking powder, salt and spices, mix until thoroughly combined. Add in flours and stir until just mixed. Bake in donut tins for 15-17 minutes at 350 until tops of donuts are firm and springy to the touch

Great British Bake Off Fantasy League – Episode 1

Welcome to the Great British Bake Off Fantasy League Podcast! In this episode we will tell you all about our love of GBBO and how we got started competing over it. Heather gives some tips for baking Triple Chip Peanut Butter Cookies. Plus, you’re invited to join the league!

Triple Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 Cup – Butter (softened)

1 Cup – Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg

1 Tsp. – Vanilla Extract

3/4 Cup – Crunchy or Creamy Peanut Butter

2 Tbsp. – Additional Crunchy or Creamy Peanut Butter

1 1/3 Cup – Flour

1/2 Tsp. – Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp. – Salt

1 Cup – Chocolate Chips of your choice (Milk, Semisweet, Dark, etc.)

Instructions: Cream together the butter, sugar, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Then add salt and baking soda. Finally, add flour and chocolate chips. Stir until just mixed. Scoop onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes.

REVIEW: “Reading While Black: African American Biblical Exegesis as an Exercise in Hope”

“Black people are not dark-skinned White people.”

This was a mantra used over and over again by Tom Burrell, the first Black man to work in advertising in Chicago. He began his career in 1961 when all advertising was targeted at White consumers. As the field began to realize the potential market of appealing to Black consumers, initially the strategy was to make the exact same ads but with Black models/actors. The assumption was that the things that speak to and motivate White people are universal. But Burrell knew that Black culture was a unique expression, the ads that captured White consumers would not connect with Black consumers in the same way. He revolutionized his industry by tapping into his own experience and perspective and translating that into marketing products in a way that reflected his culture and his context.

The belief that the White experience is universal is not limited to advertising. This attitude has pervaded American society, and the Church has not been immune. In my own experience at least, the Bible is typically interpreted through the lens of White culture, nearly always by White men. These interpretations and emphases are perceived to simply be “normal” and universally applicable. Rather than acknowledging that we all bring the lens of our historical/cultural moment to scripture and that is a normal aspect of the human experience, we have assumed that what stands out to us and resonates with us is the only way to understand the Bible. This at best limits the impact of God’s Word to speak, and at worst leads to misinterpretations that have contributed to gross injustice throughout history. It has the potential to foster idolatry. To put ourselves at the center of the story and to believe that the world revolves around us is an idol that has tempted humanity from the beginning. This has played out all too often in our reading and application of scripture, to the exclusion of our brothers and sisters in our communities and around the world.

This is what makes Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley’s book, Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope, particularly timely. Dr. McCaulley is an ordained Anglican priest, an Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and an Opinion writer for The New York Times. He is well-qualified to write a book about Biblical exegesis but Reading While Black is much more than a scholarly endeavor. The book is motivated by a deep desire to let the Bible speak, and a deep belief that all of God’s children may see themselves reflected in God’s story.

Reading While Black begins with a portion of Dr. McCaulley’s own story. He grew up in a Black conservative tradition, and then was educated in institutions that pulled him in different directions. Like many Black Christians and theologians, he sensed a disconnect between his lived experience and the ways the Bible was presented. It often felt like he either needed to view the Bible as a story about only the salvation of souls, or reject it as a tool of destruction that could have no bearing on the pursuit of modern justice. He sensed that there must be more than these two stark choices. It is this hope and belief that drives the rest of the book.

Each chapter seeks to address the struggles and unique experiences of the Black community by honoring the Biblical text in its fullness. The chapters range from topics such as the Bible and policing, the Bible and politics, the Bible and slavery, Black identity, and Black rage. The chapters dive deep into scripture and historical context, not doing hermeneutical backflips to arrive at a desired interpretation, but genuinely seeking God’s voice. Dr. McCaulley effectively shows that where the Bible has failed to come alive for marginalized communities, it has been a failure of emphasis and not a failure of presence. The Bible is more than able to speak on its own in powerful and heartening ways when we allow it to do so. Reading While Black is a profound illustration of the truth that the Bible is indeed alive and active, able to transcend culture and time to connect with and guide all of God’s people.

For BIPOC readers, I believe you will find tremendous affirmation and love in these pages. Where you have struggled to believe that God’s love is equally extended to you, where you have read passages about slavery and been filled with anger and confusion, where you have wondered if Christianity really is a White man’s religion, this book may be a healing balm. It is not filled with easy platitudes or interpretive avoidance; it is filled with hard-won truth that will speak to your soul. I hope it will strengthen your faith and renew your heart in ways you may not have thought possible.

For White readers, parts of this book will feel strange and confusing. It will reveal to you the ways that we have been unknowingly conditioned to view ourselves as the heroes of the story. The ways where our teaching has assumed that Black and Brown people are just White people in different skin. Pay attention to what makes you feel uncomfortable or what makes you want to push back and question. There were junctures where I felt defensive or wanted to doubt the conclusions in the book. After self-reflection, I believe this was because I was not used to being a guest in the reading of scripture. So I hope you will come with an attitude of generosity and humility, ready to rejoice with your brothers and sisters in the way that the Gospel of Christ can resonate in ways you were not imagining.

When we only want to read the Bible through one lens, we make God small. This does not mean that the Bible should mean whatever any given reader wants it to mean. Dr. McCaulley is not urging us all to just live our truth. But nor does it mean that the Bible has only a monocultural application or that our culture has no bearing on how the Good News can resonate. Rather, we affirm the goodness and glory of God when we read the scripture as a global community. We serve a Risen Lord who is able to embody timeless and universal truth that can also come alive in specific ways. Seeing the ways that the Bible applies to each of our lives enables us to better understand a vast Savior. Reading this book for me was a beautiful experience which prompted me to praise God more joyfully because He is the God Who Sees, Emmanuel who joins with all of His children more intimately than I could ever realize on my own. Please read this book. See yourself in God’s story. See your neighbor in God’s story. Be reminded that we serve a Sovereign Lord who reigns over all things, and in Whom all things hold together.

Reading While Black is available Sept 1, consider ordering from this terrific independent bookstore Hearts and Minds Bookstore

REVIEW: Boys State

How have you been feeling about politics lately? Fearful? Hopeful? Angry? Energetic? How many times in the last four years have you heard some version of, “America is more divided than it has ever been”? If this very common sentiment is true, and has been for a while, then perhaps the only way to fix it is to do something different. What do we do differently, though, and whose responsibility is it to be different? It’s all too easy to assume that the next generation will bring change, but if Apple’s new documentary Boys State is a signpost of what’s to come, we may want to create a little more urgency in the here and now.

Boys State Rob

Boys State, from filmmakers Amanda McBain and Jesse Moss, won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and documents the 2018 Texas Boys State program. Every year in every state the American Legion runs a leadership development experience for male and female high school juniors. The goal of the program is to educate young people on civic engagement and often includes perks like college credit or valuable college scholarships. The film opens highlighting some of the program’s more infamous alumni like Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh. Each young person is sponsored by their local Legion and are usually the sole representative of their high school. Following the leaders of the youth of our nation, what an incredible opportunity to see what they stand for and how they will engage in the political process! The issue is, once this week at the Texas state capitol begins to unfold, it’s not that different from what we see on our national political stage.

Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the survivors of the Parkland shooting standing behind podiums or Greta Thunberg addressing the world’s leaders, but the displays at this Boys State more resembles the worst comment threads on Facebook. Are abortion and gun control the most pressing concerns on the average 17-year-old conservative Texan? The answer, from the subjects themselves, is no, but it’s what they think they’re supposed to talk about. They may not even be able to tell you why, but they definitely think it will make them successful, popular, and, more importantly, elected. One young man even goes as far to admit that he believes the exact opposite of what he said in a debate because he knows it’s what people want to hear. They’re all getting ready to enter college or the workforce. Many probably do think often about the world they’re inheriting. Some of them probably have challenging family lives rife with relational and economic obstacles. Other’s minds are filled with dreams of tricked-out pickup trucks and queries as to who among them can do the most pushups. But you ask them to talk about politics and the only place their mind can go is the 2nd Amendment.

Boys State Group

In this environment it’s hard not to notice the outliers. In the documentary, it is a young man named Steven who enters the narrative in his Beto t-shirt telling stories of his conversion to the political sphere by Bernie Sanders. Later we find out that Steven helped stage the “March For Our Lives” march in Houston. It’s not his progressivism that makes Steven different, though. He also knows in order to win the coveted highest office of Boys State Governor, he must reach across the aisle. When asked the primary role of a politician, Steven answers “public service.” He says again and again in his speeches, and during his quest to get the signatures needed to be on the ticket, that governing means he represents everyone, not just those who agree with him. The film spends a lot of time watching Steven go conversation to conversation, handshake to handshake, lunch to lunch, asking the same question, “What do you care about?” He’s not interested in changing his convictions to win, he wants to build a representative government.

The doc might look upon Steven with a tinge of partiality, but what if all of the other boys acted this way? What might be different about the platforms they produce or the races they run? The policies and campaigns end up looking all too familiar, though. There are guys who jump to impeachment at the slightest whiff of disagreement while others attempt a full-blown Texas secession just to be cool (the previous year’s Boys State voted to succeed and made headlines). There’s mudslinging, social media smear campaigns, and petty or goofy congressional resolutions.

Boys State Rene

If we are expecting the next generation to be different, then one Steven in a sea of 1,100 future politicians aren’t great odds. We may need to take some responsibility for what this next generation is absorbing. Think about someone like John Lewis who did have the burden of change thrust upon his shoulders at a young age, but he clung to his elders (though many weren’t much older) for an example. Now how many young people will vote for the first time in 2020 because they learned of his legacy as the world eulogized him? Lewis is encouraging more Americans from the grave than many who currently hold office. “My friends, let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution. By and large, American politics is dominated by politicians who build their careers on immoral compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic, and social exploitation,” Lewis said in front of the crowd at the March on Washington in 1963. Boys State helps us see that we simply cannot wait to see what progress the next generation will bring or how they’ll be different. We have to be different right now or they never will be.

A Biblical Case for the Removal of Racist Monuments

Our country has been having this debate for years now. Quietly in the 20th century, but much more extensively in the last few years since 2017. How should we view and understand monuments built to honor Confederate and other controversial figures? Should they be removed? Are they an important way to remember our history, or a hurtful way to prolong racial discrimination? If they are taken down, will we doom ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past?

It is first crucial to discern why and when these monuments were erected to begin with. If you look at a timeline of Confederate monuments being erected, you’ll notice two big spikes.

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You might be surprised to find that the majority of them went up at the turn of the 20th century, several decades after the Civil War. This was a time when Jim Crow, segregation, and racially motivated violence were increasingly high. The statues were intended to be a sign of intimidation to Black Americans and a reinforcement of White supremacy. These images were not meant to be a cautionary tale of the dangers of slavery and division, or even just to honor veterans of an American war. They were part of a systemic movement to silence and control Black communities. This is further evidenced by the second spike in the 1960s. Not the 1860s, but in the 1960s during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. There can only be one reason why cities and towns would choose to erect new Confederate statues at the same time that Black citizens were organizing and demonstrating for equal rights. It was another attempt to intimidate and assert power. For a deep dive into the history and geography of Confederate statues, check out the Southern Poverty Law Center’s analysis.

In light of this I would argue that Confederate statues in particular, as well other monuments honoring racist figures like Columbus and Spanish conquistadors, are not mere historical emblems. They are symbols of idolatry. The idolatry of greed and exploitation that has long held this country captive. They are preventing us from honestly reckoning with our history by perpetuating a false narrative of heroism and honor. Removing them is not what prevents us from learning from the past, leaving them up is what keeps us stuck.

When we look at Israel’s relationship with their symbols of idolatry, they display a similar pattern. When they first prepare to move into the land, God commands them in no uncertain terms:

Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. – Deut. 12:2

Idol worship was performed on the “high places” where it was elevated and revered. God commanded them to rid the land of all traces of idol worship as they entered in for a fresh start and a clean slate. However, God’s people did not remove the high places. This wasn’t out of an abundance of caution. They weren’t concerned with preserving their history to avoid repeating it. These dangerous Idols maintained their grasp on the people’s hearts because the people saw them as a source of power and control. Why put all your faith in God alone when you can hedge your bets and have multiple options for security and prosperity? Not surprisingly, Israel continued to struggle with idolatry for centuries.

If you look through 1-2 Kings a clear pattern will quickly emerge. King after king refuses to tear down the high places. You start to get déjà vu thinking you are reading the same passage over again:

The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. 2 Kings 14:4

The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. 2 Kings 15:4

The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the Lord. 2 Kings 15:35

Some rare instances emerge when kings tore them down, but the next king would put them right back up. The nation remained locked in a cycle of exploitation and sin because of their refusal to remove the means and symbols of their idolatry.

If you compare Kings with 1-2 Chronicles, you will notice something interesting. Kings was written at the beginning of the Babylonian exile when the people are finally being forced to come to terms with their centuries of violence and greed. The question they are asking themselves is, “How did we get here? Did we get here because God is weak and could not protect us, or because we are sinful?” The answer of course is not that God is weak, but that they had brought it upon themselves. So the theme and tone of Kings is a grim recounting of the moral failures of the kings and the peoples’ unwillingness to repent and change. 1 Kings has 10 references to high places, 2 Kings has 17 (that’s a lot). It is essentially a laundry list of their sin and idolatry. Everything they did wrong that they now had to confront and acknowledge.

By the time we get to Chronicles, the tone changes. These books were written at the end of the exile when their fundamental question had changed. Now they were looking towards returning and rebuilding and were asking, “Is God still with us? Did we burn all our bridges or are God’s promises still for us?” Chronicles answers that question by focusing on the things King David did right in his pursuit of God, and the things the other kings did right to honor Israel’s covenant with the Lord. 2 Chronicles has 15 references to high places, but they are not found in God’s continued warnings but in examples of the few intervals where a king did remove them. These intervals were always followed by periods of obedience in Israel. Chronicles serves as a reminder that Israel was capable of being faithful to the Lord. God’s forgiveness and grace were always there when they turned to Him. Their periods of rest and joy came when they tore down their idolatrous symbols and gave their whole hearts to following God.

And that is the other exhortation Israel’s history offers to our grappling with modern idolatrous symbols. It is not enough just to take them down. Their removal must be accompanied by genuine honesty about our sin and heartfelt repentance. It was only when Israel came face to face with the fruit of their sin that they embraced lasting change. (For a beautiful example of individual and corporate confession, read Daniel’s prayer in Babylon in Daniel 9.) Our society has a similar opportunity during this period of public reckoning. All is not lost; God desires so much more for our society and can and will equip us to change and grow. Our monuments are holding us back with false narratives and misplaced honor. They have not preserved our history; they have rewritten it. Let us remove them with hearts that desire to follow Christ alone, our true and only source of security and power.