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A Catholic Home - Cookies to sweeten the homework session

Photo: Janis Olson Photo: Janis Olson

With fair-trade chocolate chips, you’ll like them even more

Years ago, when my two youngest sons were in high school, I became proficient at “rate, time and distance” problems. The boys were just one year apart, so I had two consecutive years of Algebra I.

You know the problem: Two trains, traveling toward each other, left from two stations that are 900 miles apart, at 4 p.m. If the rate of the first train is 72 mph and the rate of the second train is 78 mph, at what time will they pass each other?

My sons disliked algebra. I liked it, so every night after dinner we would spread out over the dining room table and solve the homework problems together. The idea was for them to work out the answers as I did, and then we would double-check each other — except their minds were far away, and they really just wanted to copy my work.

It was frustrating all around.

As I reminisced on those homework sessions, I thought they might have been more rewarding if only for a couple of chocolate chip cookies.

Now the best chocolate chippers I’ve had in years are from the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center at the Palisades. I discovered them last spring at a retreat with Father Stephen Rowan. For years, I had stayed away from unwanted calories by avoiding most sweets. But that went by the wayside when I sampled the chocolate chip cookies that Gay Ackley, head of hospitality for the center, had put out for midday snacks.

Gay has been at the Palisades for more than 28 years. The recipe is from the files of Brother Oliver, who was head of the kitchen when the Redemptorists owned the lovely site overlooking Puget Sound in Federal Way. Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett acquired it in 2000, turning it into a destination for prayer, peace, reflection and beauty.

Gay has cut the shortening, but the recipe is mostly Brother Oliver’s original. It makes 16 dozen. I asked if she had ever tried cutting it down (another math problem), but she said she makes a batch and then freezes the dough in golf ball-sized portions that she can thaw and bring out during retreats.

Sweetening the equation are fair-trade chocolate chips.

Gay usually buys the chocolate through Equal Exchange, a site that is partnered with Catholic Relief Services. If you buy something from Equal Exchange and let them know that you are Catholic, they will contribute a portion to CRS, said Kelly Hickman, assistant director for the Missions Office of the archdiocese.

“It’s an investment in the community and an alternative approach to trade to uphold the sacredness and dignity of every person,” she said. “Pope Benedict talked about consumers having a specific social responsibility. We are called in a small but significant way as consumers to lift up the dignity of others. Fair trade helps give children and farmers access to safe and stable lives and education.”

Here is the site if you want to help Catholic Relief Services and the chocolate farmers of Ghana and other nations.

And here is the answer to the algebra problem: The trains will meet in six hours, at 10 p.m.


Palisades chocolate chip cookies

Gay Ackley
Gay Ackley with a tray of the famous Palisades chocolate chip cookies. Photo: Janis Olson

Note: Unless you have an industrial mixer, you’ll probably want to use the measurements in parentheses.

6 cups white sugar (1 cup)
3 cups brown sugar (1/2 cup)
4 1/3 cups shortening (2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
2 cups butter (1/3 cup)
6 eggs (1 egg)
12 cups flour (2 cups)
6 teaspoons salt (1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup baking soda (2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup vanilla (2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup cream of tartar (2 teaspoons)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the sugars, shortening and butter. Beat in the eggs. Combine the dry ingredients and mix into wet ingredients. Mix in as many or as few chocolate chips as you wish. Scoop onto cookie sheet. Gay Ackley recommends heavy cookie sheets that are lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10–12 minutes.

Northwest Catholic - September 2015

Janet Cleaveland

Janet Cleaveland is a member of the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver.


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