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Chocolate Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups milk

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup and 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl.  Combine milk and melted butter.  Add oil to milk and butter and whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.

Thoroughly grease and flour a muffin pan.

Add liquid ingredients to dry and mix lightly.  With a spatula, gently fold in 1 cup of chips.  Do not overmix.  Spoon mixture into muffin pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup of chips onto tops of muffins.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove from pan gently and let cool on a wire rack.



Voc Tech Genius

Every neighborhood has a family like the Livingstons.  Lots of kids, not enough house, and at least one black sheep.  Larry Livingston was the scourge of the block.  Lana Livingston couldn’t control her overgrown bully of a son and didn’t have the time to deal with him.  I saw Larry walking the neighborhood when he should have been in school and although I had never had a conversation with him, I  adopted the belief that he was dangerous.  Larry was enrolled in voc tech as a last resort to school.  I saw him shortly after that driving a beater of a car.  He gained a reputation as a bit of an engine savant and was seen with his head deep into engines on our block trying to repair them.

Our paths crossed on a chilly wet afternoon in the A&P.  I was shopping at the store due to a big sale on chops and I was planning on preparing Apple Onion Smothered Chops for dinner.  I liked the S&H Green Stamps and was close to filling another book, so I bought enough for the meal and some extras to save in the deep freeze.  Larry was at the customer service window buying cigarettes when he turned his head and we made eye contact.  I smiled politely and finished buying my food.

The downpour increased as a I left, so I tossed my bags into the trunk, and jumped into my car.  The car would not start and I turned the key needlessly over and over again.  There was plenty of gas so I had reached the limit of my engine knowledge.  Steve takes the lead on car servicing and oil changes.  Smitty pumps our gas at the local station and keeps a sharp eye on my oil and water levels.

The rapping on my window startled me and I saw a dripping Larry looking directly at me.  I froze for a second then regrouped and rolled the window open a little.  I heard him ask if he could help.  Larry told me that I had probably flooded the engine and the dumb look on my face forced him to explain that my constant attempts at starting the engine might be keeping it from turning over successfully.  He asked if he could take a look and I shrugged and nodded yes at the same time.

Larry gently popped the hood and I could see his hands checking different sections of the engine.  He shouted out for me to try and start it, and the engine sputtered a little and started. He dropped the hood back into place, smiled, and waved good-bye.  I rolled the window down and yelled a thanks to his dripping wet back as he returned to wherever he had come from. I felt mortified by my past beliefs about Larry and a little ashamed that I had believed them so easily.  I wrapped up a basket of Chocolate Muffins, inserted a thank you note, and left them on the front stoop of the Livingston’s house in the morning.

Larry and I smile at each other when we pass these days.  In fact, last week I saw him under a car on the lift at Smitty’s.  Good kid, working his way through school.