Recipe – Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

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I’ve had this recipe tagged as “experimental” in my recipe file for months but it’s time to post it. I get consistently raving feedback whenever I make it for parties and gatherings. I hope you enjoy it as well if you try making it.

Like most quick breads, this works best if you have one bowl for dry stuff and a separate bowl for wet stuff. Freshly milled whole wheat gives my bread a really nice texture but any wheat or white flour should give good results.

Preheat oven to 325F

Yield: 2 loaves (8-9″ pans) or 1 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

Dry Stuff

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (if grinding from fresh wheat berries like I do, it’s 450g of berries and you want a relatively fine grind).
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (if old, use 1/2 tsp as nutmeg loses potency quickly)
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
Wet Stuff
  • 1/2 cup honey or sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter or neutral-flavor oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups “pumpkin” puree (butternut, buttercup, and other winter squash often have more flavor than pie pumpkins)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Add-In
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (my favorite are Guittard Extra Dark 63% Cocoa, pricey but well worth it in my book)
  1. Whisk dry stuff together
  2. Whisk wet stuff together
  3. Add dry to wet, whisk until just combined.
  4. Add chocolate chips and gently mix or fold with a spatula to thoroughly combine.
  5. Grease pans and scoop batter into them.
  6. Bake at 325 for about an hour for loaves. Check for doneness with a cake tester of choice, it should remove cleanly. Allow to cool on wire racks for 15 before trying to remove from loaf pans.

If there’s anything unclear, please ask in the comments. Enjoy!


Sacred Magic and Finding the Divine

I’m writing this to work a few things out. I’ve changed tremendously over the past few years. What’s amazing is that with all that change, my relationship with Maria has only gotten deeper, more wonderful, and showers me with gratitude our lives are linked on this journey.

For some reason, religion has been coming up a lot in conversation lately, so it’s prompted me to pull a few mental programs out and re-examine them. I’m comfortably settling in to my post-Catholic belief in some form of the divine even at the same time Maria attends church and our children are being raised in the faith we both grew up in. At the time I wrote this post, my position was still relatively new. If you’re a newer reader, most of what I wrote there is relevant to the beliefs I have two years later but I’m not going to rehash the same points. I’d read that and then come back here.

Humanity’s knowledge of the world has progressed very far since the founding of the major world religions. Dismissing religion as something needed only to explain what has not yet been explained is not something I see as correct. If anything, as science has progressed from early reductionism, we’ve discovered more mystery. Soil-food webs, ecology, the microbiome, epigenetics and more are fields that are revealing incredibly complex networks. The interconnectedness of all life is mind-boggling. I’m okay if they never get explained. Mysteries, to my mind, provoke more respect than positive knowledge.

I diverged from the Catholic tradition in a lot of small ways over time. Looking back with the perspective of a few years’ distance, the division was forced by two wedges.

Wedge #1. The sacred is absolutely a thing. The author of Meditations on the Tarot is absolutely correct when he refers to the sacraments of the Church as sacred magic. While I’ve experienced mystical peace in several settings, my two most powerful experiences were in churches. The sacred energy in the shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and, even more so, in the crypt churches of the National Basilica practically bowled me over. When I was a believer, the sacred energy in the Eucharist was incredibly powerful, nor do I look back on it all and see it as a figment of imagination.

The Church, and in truth probably all faiths that have not twisted themselves to the dominion of others (e.g. fundamentalist currents or other perverted currents like the prosperity gospel), possess conduits of immense power. This is going to sound relativistic, but if those religions work for their believers, all power to them. The divine is like pure white light, and each religion a prism that breaks the infinite oneness into slightly different discrete, but understandable, spectrums comprehendable by our finite minds. Humans tune in to the energy around them.

But despite my respect for the sacred magic in the possession of the Catholic Church, I had to leave. My experience of the sacred power in the Basilica’s crypts was 2 years after leaving the Church. I know the sacred energy is there, but I can’t tap into it in the form its active believers do. There are just too many differences between me and the stated teachings of the Church. The principle three are as follows.

I’m bi-sexual. I believe this is the first time I’ve “come out” to many of the readers here, so it may shock some. I realized my dual sexuality only somewhat recently and in fact I used to be an outspoken anti-gay person in my youth. Looking back with new clarity, in hindsight a variety of small experiences growing up make a lot more sense. I’m obviously happily married straight, so this really doesn’t change my life, but it is who I am. Moreover, I don’t see anything wrong with homosexuality. Embracing it creates a lot of good. Oppressing it through legal force, stigma or by ‘curing’ people creates a lot of tortured souls.

I think the Catholic position on reproduction is wrong, or at least is not universally workable. If science could develop a 100% effective birth control method that wasn’t permanent, I think it would be a major coup to human well-being. Sex is an incredibly important bonding experience. Having been through three surprise pregnancies, even though we did want to keep them, was a trying emotional experience for me – and I can only barely comprehend what they were like for Maria. Seeing the intense emotion of a partner is a shadow of experiencing it for yourself.

Life has a way of surprising us, it’s true, and I don’t think perfect control is necessarily the ultimate good but no one should have to go through that if they do not want to. Unwanted and unloved children live miserable lives. Yes, there’s adoption, but first the massive social stigma associated with carrying pregnancies to term and then giving them up needs to be fixed. The clusterfuck that is the family court system also needs to be fixed. Seriously, talk to any foster parent.

Abortion is not a good thing in my mind. Like many not-very-good things, however, it’s been with us for nearly all of human history. Wise women of many cultures found and secretly passed the knowledge of natural medicines to terminate pregnancies down. Until unwanted pregnancies can be prevented, abortion is going to be a thing, and taking away access to it before solving the rest of the issues is folly.

It’s a mess no matter how you look at it but the more I compared my inclinations versus the teachings of the Church, it drove me away.

The third issue is my distaste for the intensely hierarchical nature but a lot of this feeds into the second full wedge.

Wedge #2. Jesus said “Wherever two or more are gathering in my name, I am with them.” The central ritual – and most potent sacred magic – co-opted the Jewish blessing before every meal, the breaking of the bread. The central prayer asks God to “give us our daily bread”. The sacred magic is in the gathering, in the food, in the home.

The sacred magic was quickly co-opted by an elite priesthood. The ritual was taken out of the home and put back into temples where believers face the invisible God instead of facing each other and finding God in the connections between us all.

Think of how much wealth and life energy has been tied up in religious structures over time! Monuments to the sacred have their role, something my own experiences can’t deny, but still I wonder what the human landscape would look like if the major religions devoted their energy and money to neighborliness instead of capital-intensive structures. Plain communities, for all their human flaws, give us a glimpse at what might have been and could be.

Joel Salatin and I would disagree over the social issues I highlighted above, but a thing in his Christian faith I absolutely respect is his commitment to ‘home church’. They worship in the house, as I think it was always intended by Jesus himself. They have an intensely personal relationship with God, and the families who share the journey with them. This faith energy is bound up in the home, in the meal, in each other – not an impersonal structure separated from the home. It’s powerful stuff.

In his most recent book, he talks about Jesus’ parable of the wheat, that only if the seed dies can it give life. All life requires death. Every meal, every breath we take is the result of a sacrifice. Our fundamental relationship with creation is drawn to a head around our table. Do we worship with our food? Do we worship with those we share a meal? Do we worship in the home? Food, life energy, is so important. Disconnecting the central ritual of Christianity from this basic truth is a mistake.

I’m not sure how to go about finding partners on this journey. I’m not arrogant enough to say I have truth. I’m no prophet or priest. My beliefs are so different from the norm. They’re also nebulous, wisps of wordless thought I can barely grab onto long enough to force into words. I’m frankly surprised this piece has come out as coherent as it has.

If you have one, what is your faith journey like?

Do you search for the divine outside of a conventional religion? What is your ‘worship’ like?  Have you found others to share it with?


Net Worth – Q3 2016

For now I think I’m still comfortable publicly updating our net worth progress. It’s a high-level look at our progress to our goals.

Assets

  • Home (Estimated Market Value): $70,000
  • 401(k): $65,191
  • tIRA: $18,303
  • Non-Earmarked Cash: $500 (We have much more cash on hand but a lot of it is going to be eaten up by the transmission rebuild that’s currently in progress.)
  • HSA (invested portion): $987
  • Total: 154,981
  • Assets towards FI: $84,981
    • Approximate passive income this would generate annually: $3,399

Liabilities

  • Home Mortgage: $99,579 @6.5% –> PMI makes it effectively ~7.1%
  • Student Loan (Alchemist A): $999 @0.1%
  • Student Loan (Alchemist B): $21,498 @3.9%
  • Total: $122,076

Net Worth: $32,905

Net Worth Last Quarter: $26,991

Net Worth 1 Year Ago: $15,371

Net Worth At the Start (End 2013): -$33,948