Monday, November 7, 2011

"With Arms Wide Open"

Song Pairing:
With Arms Wide Open by Creed
My oldest son turned 31 yesterday.  He is the one who introduced me to the band, Creed, and Scott Stapp's powerful vocals.  I can't listen to their music without thinking of my son.  And since this post is going to be about this son and his beloved Peanut Butter Bars, it makes it about the most perfect song choice ever!  It's a beautiful ballad about becoming a parent and echoes my joy upon learning I was to be a mother for the first time - to this amazing son.  Read on . . . 

We are a family of music lovers - always sharing our new finds with each other.  It makes for an eclectic iTunes library as our tastes are quite varied.  I remember when my oldest son was listening to Creed when he was in high school.  I liked it but many of their songs sounded so raw and angry.  When I shared these thoughts with my son he defended their sound saying that they were a Christian Rock band.  I hadn't heard about this genre yet and wondered, out loud, if having Christ in their life is what made them so upset and what kind of message that sent to their listeners.  My son didn't roll his eyes but I'm pretty sure he wanted to.

I was teasing him, you know.  I'm not a "music prude" at all.  I grew up in a musical family and my parents were NOT the type to tell us to turn our stereos down.  My mom would boogie to whatever we were playing as she did the ironing.  The notion that music could annoy parents came strictly from watching television shows and listening to the kids at school.  My first music censoring experience came in the 6th grade as my teacher forbade us to play American Pie by Don McLean in the classroom.  I was aware that music could evoke strong emotions from people - I just didn't experience that sort of opposition at home.

I loved discussing music with my son - even if those discussions were provoked by putting him on the defensive.  I was just curious to hear what he would say - and I was always astounded at the depth of his knowledge about bands in particular and music in general.  I was proud.

When he left to be a missionary in Europe for two years I missed him terribly.  To help me feel close to him, I pulled out his Creed CDs and started listening to them.  I listened to the words.  There wasn't really anything objectionable.  The beat was driving, the vocals were compelling, and I found myself actually loving the music for my own enjoyment.  In fact, it started becoming the music to which I listened when I would do big projects such as painting or cleaning out the garage (the acoustics in the garage were AWESOME!)  I was a Creed fan - or probably more accurately - I was a Scott Stapp fan.  Man, that guy can sing!

Another thing I did to remember my son while he was gone was make these Peanut Butter Bars.  At the time, they were a fairly new addition to my recipe box.  I got the recipe from my friend whose mother made these goodies for a get-together.  They reminded me of my beloved Peanut Butter Goodies from school lunch growing up - only with chocolate!  I usually didn't make bar cookies and I don't know why since they are such a time saver.  Every single person in the family loved these, but my son loved them the most.  Afraid that they were going to be difficult, I was thrilled to get the recipe and learn how easily and quickly they worked up.  Needless to say, I always made sure I had a tub of chocolate frosting and both types of peanut butter in the pantry.

Yes - I said pre-made, store-bought, chocolate frosting.  Culinary guilt steps in.

When I was in culinary school I felt it was a sign of weakness of my skills as a chef if I were to use such a convenience item when I was capable of making a beautiful chocolate frosting from scratch.  So I made these bars and used my homemade frosting. I was really expecting an outcome of baking brilliance.  A total transformation of an already wondrous product.  I was stupefied when, upon tasting them, they were very much the same delightful treat as with the canned frosting. There was no elevation of quality - they were just as delicious as before.  How could this be true?  It didn't make sense.  Wasn't homemade always better than store-bought?  Shortly after this puzzling experiment, we had a class on just this topic.  The chef brought up the role of ready-made products and their place in the professional kitchen.  My guilt was taken away as we learned that, at times, pre-made products were perfectly acceptable, and it didn't make you less of a chef for using them.  Suddenly it was silly NOT to use pre-made frosting since it was a time saver as well as a money saver!  Whew!

Here's the recipe with a couple of my own tweaks.
Happy Birthday, son!

Peanut Butter Bars
Printable Recipe Card
3/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. white sugar
1 3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. chunky peanut butter
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
dash salt
2 c. oats
small jar creamy peanut butter
1 container chocolate frosting

Preheat to 350.

Cream together the sugars and the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the chunky peanut butter and mix until blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are well-incorporated after each one.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add, all at once, to the wet ingredients and mix just until it starts to come together.  At this point, add the oats and mix until the dough just comes together. Lightly spray a cookie sheet and spread the dough out evenly.

Bake 9 minutes.  Turn.  Bake another 9 minutes.  Do not be tempted to bake these any longer.  They will appear doughy and you're going to want to - but don't!  It almost looks like the surface of the moon!

Let them cool.  Spread the creamy peanut butter over the top.  Spread the chocolate frosting over top of that.  It really helps if you use an off-set spatula.

You might want to chill them a bit before cutting.  Cut them small because they are rich!

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