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Blog on the Move!

12 Aug

A Sharper Focus Blog is now at: www.asharperfocusblog.com

That’s right, I’m moving! Last fall I took a web design class so that I could customize my blog more and expand my web capabilities. After a summer of working on the new blog, I’ve moved the blog from a wordpress.com site to a wordpress.org site and am ready for you to join me. Come on over and don’t forget to press the Follow button on the bottom right to stay connected!

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Hot Cross Buns

30 Mar

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For the last couple of years hot cross buns have become part of our Easter morning tradition. Our church has one combined outdoor service for Easter and everyone is encouraged to bring food to share with others before and after the service. Hot cross buns are a simple spiced bread with currants that make a tasty breakfast that’s easy to share.

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Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday in England, but because of my schedule, and usually what I have given up for lent, I have been waiting to make them for Easter Sunday. I read a superstition somewhere that if you make the buns on Good Friday they will not go bad all year! I don’t know if I could not eat them long enough to find out…

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Hot Cross Buns

This recipe is from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

12 tablespoons of butter melted and cooled
1 cup milk
2 packages (14 grams) active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs lightly beaten
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups currants or raisins
1 egg white
2 cups powdered sugar
juice of 1 lemon (optional)

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Directions

  • Grease a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a sauce pan or microwave warm the milk until just warm, about 110 degrees.
  • Put the dough hook on your electric mixer. In your electric mixer’s bowl pour the milk, butter, sugar and yeast. Stir a few times and then let sit for 2-3 minutes until the mixture starts to look bubbly on the surface.
  • While waiting for the bubbles to form, in a separate bowl measure out your flour and whisk your salt into it.
  • Going back to the liquid ingredients, turn your mixer on low and add in the 4 eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until just incorporated.
  • One cup at a time add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, making sure the flour has mixed in before adding more. When all of the flour has been added let the mixer kneed the dough for about 4 more minutes. You will have to watch the mixer to scrape down the dough every once and a while. It likes to work it’s self up the hook.
  • Add the currants or raisins and mix for about 30 more seconds then take the dough out of the bowl onto a well floured counter and kneed a bit more until the currants are even throughout the dough.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place in your greased bowl. Put a little bit of melted butter or oil on top of the dough, cover loosely with plastic wrap, cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise for about one and a half to two hours. The dough should double in size.
  • When the dough is ready, line a 11 x 17 baking sheet with parchment paper and pre heat your oven to 375 degrees.
  • Take the dough out of the bowl and kneed a few times. Divide your dough in half, then each peace in half again, then thirds. This should give you 24 (about 2oz) pieces. Roll each one into a little ball by folding into onto it’s self at on point on the bottom. Cover the backing sheet loosely with a towel again and let sit for about thirty more minutes.
  • Take a knife or scissors and cut a cross on the top of each roll and brush with the egg white that’s been mixed with a little bit of water.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until the tops are nice and golden. Let cool.
  • Mix together the powdered sugar, a table spoon of milk or water and lemon if you wish. Fill a plastic zip top bag with the glaze and then cut a slit in the bottom corner and pipe a cross onto each bun.

Sharing a Hot Cross Bun with someone this Easter is a beautiful and delicious reminder of His love for us.

Cinnamon Banana Bread (with Streusel Topping)

13 Mar

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This is one of my first go-to recipes when I started really wanting to cook from scratch in college. I actually usually make these as muffins, but for some reason I felt like a thick slice of banana bread the day I baked these. This recipe is great to make with kids and I have fond memories of smashing up bananas with one of my friends daughters when I would make these in college.

The streusel topping is not a necessity for this bread, but it’s a fun addition if you’re in the mood to make it.

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Cinnamon Banana Bread

Makes 1 nine inch loaf pan, or about 18 muffins

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  • Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your loaf pan, or line your muffin tins.
  • In a medium bowl whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl cream your butter and sugar together with a hand mixer.
  • Mix your eggs one at a time to your creamed butter and sugar until well incorporated, then mix in the vanilla and milk.
  • With a spoon or spatula stir in your bananas, leaving a few small chunks of banana. It doesn’t need to be smooth.
  • Now fold in the dry ingredients in just until everything looks incorporated. You don’t want to over mix.
  • Pour your batter into your pan or tins and add the streusel topping now if you wish.
  • For the loaf bake 35 minutes, the muffins only about 25 minutes. For best results rotate your pan halfway through baking.
  • Let cool and enjoy!

Streusel Topping

With a two knifes, or a pastry cutter, cut 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon together in a bowl until your have pea-sized pieces of butter. If your butter is soft enough I have also been know to just use a fork, whatever is easier for you. Sprinkle this mixture over each muffin, or over the entire loaf. The extra cinnamon crumble on top is delicious!

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Red Lentil Coconut Curry Stew

1 Mar

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It’s been over two weeks now since the beginning of the Lenten season, and I talked briefly about what I did for Lent last year, but I wanted to share more throughout the season this year. In recent years I have become more interested in the practice of fasting as part of my Christian walk. I never really had much exposure to fasting growing up but I like how abstaining from something becomes a call to prayer, something of which I would like to do more.

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Last year Sean and I decided to follow an Orthodox-like Lenten fast of no meats, dairies, or rich oils during the week and feasting on Sundays. This year I have decided to give up meat, cheese, and Starbucks. I know Starbucks seems kind of odd, but I felt I was becoming dependent on Vanilla Spiced Chai Lattes. I try my best to follow these guidelines during the week, and feast on Sundays, but as I am human I find myself slipping up more than I would like. But, that’s also a beautiful reminder to me, that when I mess up I can always start the next morning afresh.

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Here is one of my favorite Lenten meals, Red Lentil Coconut Curry. It’s full of rich flavors and so very comforting on a cool spring evening.

Red Lentil Coconut Curry Stew

Ingredients

1 tablespoon oil of your choice
1 small onion diced
2 carrots sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
1 to 2 tablespoon curry powder (Depending on your taste)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 sweet potato cut in 1/2 cubes
1 cup red lentils
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 14oz. can coconut milk
yogurt and cilantro to garnish

Directions

  • In a large heavy bottomed pan (I like to use my dutch oven) heat oil at medium high heat until warm. Add in the onion and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes until soft.
  • Stir in the garlic, ginger, and curry powder and let cook for about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, sweet potatoes, lentils, coconut milk and veggie stock. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Stir every once and a while to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.
  • If you want your meal to be more soup-like you can serve now, or if you would like a more stew-like consistency uncover and cook for about 5 more minutes.
  • Garnish your stew with a dollop of yogurt and some cilantro, or serve over brown rice if you’d like.

I hope you enjoy the stew and I would love to hear about some of the ways you observe the Lenten season.

Granola Goodness!

23 Feb

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WARNING!!! If you make this granola and then eat it all that day it is not my fault. I will not be held liable.

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Seriously folks, this granola is delicious and easy to put together. The hardest part is not eating it all right when it comes out of the oven.

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Chocolate Crunch Granola

Makes approximately 4 cups of granola

Ingredients

3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped raw almonds
3/4 cup unsweeted dried coconut
1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
1 tablespoon flax seed
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl mix together the oats, almonds, coconut, dark chocolate and flax seeds.
  • In a small sauce pan melt the coconut oil, brown sugar, and maple sugar together (This can also be done in the microwave). Then stir in the vanilla, cocoa power and salt into the mixture off the heat.
  • Pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture and mix together thoroughly.
  • Pour everything onto the lined baking sheet and take a spatula and press down the mixture into one solid sheet of granola that’s less than half an inch thick.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, then let cool for an hour before breaking up the granola into bite sized clusters. Then enjoy!

Ready for the week’s breakfast!

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