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  • Jennifer Stewart

the violet in my kitchen

There is a special potted plant in our house that goes beyond my lifetime. Generations of carefully clipped stems placed in small pots of soil that, over time, grows and blooms into these incredible purple flowers. My African Violet has sat in my kitchen windowsill for almost 10 years now. A stunning flower that my great grandmother, Mildred started. And what’s exciting to think about, perhaps her plant, who lives with my mom, could go even further to her mother or grandmother or great grandmother. My mom clipped off a stem of the mother plant several years ago for me and I just recently made my two babies one. My sister, however, has a whole entourage. It’s like a 2021 Rave in her kitchen without the use of ecstasy but a whole lot of water and sunshine. We share pictures with one another when they bloom. We make clippings and pot them for friends and then they send us pictures. It’s really a beautiful thing that my mom, sister and I have started. It’s that something of a green thumb that folk’s nerd about their gardens, but you don’t need a green thumb for these babies. Just a good spot in your window.






Something else that my mom, sister and I share a common bond is in the kitchen. We love cooking (and baking) for other people, especially for our families and loved ones. Although none of us share the same taste buds and/or recipe ideas, all three of us enjoy what the kitchen brings to our minds and hearts. My mom makes a mean meatloaf and the most delicious chicken gumbo you’ll ever have. She dominates the canning thing and has a huge storage of all the things she grows in the summer all year round. My sister will kick your ass in the paleo aisle with her incredible cookies that she makes without a kitchen aid mixer (that still blows my mind she doesn’t have one) but honestly, she doesn’t need it. She’s inventive with her cooking and always tries new things. She makes a killer pulled pork and a phenomenal homemade pop tart!! Whenever we get together, we always have a fight over who makes the best Guacamole, and my dad continues to be the judge for everything. (I usually win) I’ll admit that when we’re all three in the kitchen together, there may be a fight or two… often about who does what correctly or as we get older “better.” I love sharing this art with my mom and sister. This art that drives us to be good cooks for our family. This art that continues to bring people together not only in the house we grew up in, but the houses we now call home.


I feel like my fondest/oldest memory in the kitchen with my mom is when she would let my sister and I help her make chocolate chip pan cookies. Just a simple recipe from the chocolate chip bag on the back. But we would make it in her big cast iron pan and cut them into squares and eat them warm out of the oven. And as we got older, my sister and I would make that along with banana bread whenever we had some free time… So today, I’m going to pair a similar recipe that @halfbakedharvest has shared… And I hope you enjoy!!!


crinkle top chocolate peanut butter skillet blondies.


INGREDIENTS

· 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter

· 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

· 1 cup granulated sugar

· 1/2 cup light brown sugar

· 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

· 3 large eggs, at room temperature

· 1 cup all-purpose flour

· 1 teaspoon baking powder

· 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

· 2-3 ounces dark chocolate chunks (or just handful more of chocolate chips)

· flaky sea salt (optional)



INSTRUCTIONS

1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Add the butter to a 10-12 inch oven safe skillet set over medium heat. Allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Stir often. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup peanut butter, the sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Let this cool until no longer hot, about 10-15 minutes.

3. In a small bowl whisk the eggs for 2 minutes until bubbly on top. Stir the eggs into the peanut butter mix. Add the flour and baking powder. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and swirl the remaining 1/4 cup peanut butter into the dough, don't worry about making it perfect. Push the chocolate chunks into the dough.

4. Transfer to the skillet oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, just until set around the edges, but gooey in the center. Remove from the oven, let cool 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt (if desired). DIG in, preferably with a scoop of ice cream.



African Violets and Chocolate and my most favorite women in my life…. Not a bad pairing here. We just need a song and we’ve got ourselves a pretty darn good day! This is going to make my sister and mom laugh, but I must go back to our childhood home when DVDs were just a new thing, and my dad was extremely proud of his surround sound in our living room. It was the only thing we listened to other than Michael W Smith and EnVogue. Enya was all that my mom could tolerate when it came to music unless it was Christmas, it was Mannheim Steamroller. But here we are, Chocolate pan cookies and all, today’s song is Enya’s infamous Caribbean Blue. She was an Irish singer that stopped us with her Celtic New Age music and it makes me think of nothing but the 1990’s in our living room with our blue carpet and grey pillow couch. CHEERS!!!






There is a special place in my heart for these classic memories with my sister and my mom. It’s extremely hard to be so far away from them, but I love our common love for our Violets and for our cooking. And now most recently our gardening. I will forever thank my mom for teaching my sister and I to be domestic… to use our hands. She’s made us strong women because of it. The African Violet’s meaning is Mothers or Motherhood, Admiration, Connections, Delicate Love…How perfect. And beautiful. What a gift that is, not only in our ovens, but our kitchen windows too. I look forward to being in the kitchen with you both again soon. I love you mama and sissy.


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