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When you can’t get out of your own head, get into the kitchen.

Two cups of flour.

That’s where it starts. If you want to double the recipe to fill a whole sheet pan so you can make more, then start with four. I didn’t do the math when I first wrote it down, but I always double it.

The recipe for Blondies is my sister’s. It’s perfect for bake sales for school or large gatherings when you need something sweet that won’t melt in the heat and travels easily. Imagine brownies, but vanilla. They remind me of chocolate chip cookie bars. They remind me of comfort. They remind me of my family.

That’s my favorite part about recipes and baking. When you open up your recipe book, every page has a story. The Dirt recipe that I had to promise never to make for my friend’s husband. The one for homemade dill pickles that takes me right back to my childhood, eating entire jars in one sitting. Some pages are clean and others bear the spots and splotches of batches gone wild.

Recipes are connective tissue in my past, present, and future. It’s not a chore to pull my book of favorites out and spend some time creating something that brings joy not only to myself but to the recipients of the treat. Each one reminds me of the person who shared it, the story behind it.

The sharing of recipes continues the cycle. When someone asks for a recipe I’m glad to hand it over. I’m not stingy. I consider it a compliment, and look forward to hearing about their experience. I have no secrets, except for the ones that don’t require a pattern, like my Dad’s spaghetti sauce. The next time you enjoy something, ask for the recipe and watch their eyes light up.

I find baking cathartic. It’s more than just pleasing someone with food, making money for a cause, or simply eating something delicious. I find that in the act of creating something for someone else, I find peace and strength. I don’t want anything in return. (I get to lick the beaters.) In the giving, I find grace.

We all get stuck in cycles of negativity. Doing something for someone else takes you out of that cycle; even if it’s just for a moment or a day, it’s still a moment of respite. One that we deserve and don’t allow ourselves to experience nearly enough. Pure happiness can be found in moments like this, in service to others with chocolate.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

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