OPINION | FRONT BURNER: ‘Good Enough’ embraces imperfection, self-care

Every Day Is Summer Berry Cookie Bars (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Every Day Is Summer Berry Cookie Bars (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

My favorite thing about "Good Enough. A Cookbook Embracing the Joys of Imperfection & Practicing Self-Care in the Kitchen" by Leanne Brown is the TL;DR (too long; didn't read) synopsis just under the recipe name in many of the book's 100 or so recipes.

My second favorite thing is the overall message that's right there in the title: good enough.

Good enough can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Two that I could use more in my life: "You're good enough" and "that's good enough."

An editor once referred to me as a perfectionist. I don't think I'm a perfectionist. I think I have higher standards than most and it's important to me that I live up to those standards.

When I don't (which is more often than I care to admit), I sometimes feel inadequate. I don't think I'm alone in these feelings. We all have our inner critics that speak up every now and then. We just don't talk about them much. And that's why Brown's book is so welcome and needed.

On her website leannebrown.com, Brown describes the book as "a self-care cookbook that offers personal and vulnerable storytelling, delicious recipes and encouraging advice to teach you how to accept yourself, love yourself and find peace through the act of cooking."

As I flipped through the pages, stopping to read a paragraph here and there, I found myself nodding and thinking "same" and "I know that feeling." I quickly found several recipes I wanted to make right away, but I eventually settled on these bar cookies from the "when you're struggling" chapter. They're not cookies exactly. As Brown explains in the introduction, a bounty of juicy berries cooks atop a cookie crust, creating something that's less cookie and more pie.

The recipe calls for 4 cups of mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries). I didn't have 4 cups of those berries, meaning I immediately had to embrace the idea that the berries I did have — some blueberries that were a little past their prime and some local strawberries — were good enough.

The instructions said to press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan, but my crust mixture was wet like batter. There would be no pressing it. Normally, I would wonder what I did wrong or what was wrong in the recipe. But instead, I embraced the imperfection and proceeded.

And I'm so glad I did. The combination of blueberries and strawberries was delicious, and the crust turned out just fine.

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Every Day Is Summer Berry Cookie Bars

  • For the topping:
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • For the crust:
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Whipped cream, optional for serving

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on two opposite sides to use as handles for removing bars from pan.

Place the berries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, ¾ cup granulated sugar and vanilla. Whisk well. Add the egg and whisk until smooth and a bit lighter.

In a third bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and mix with a wooden spoon. Press mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spoon berry mixture over dough.

Bake 50 minutes or until crust is golden and set, and fruit has thickened. Cool in pan on a wire rack to room temperature and then use the paper overhang to remove from pan. Cut into squares.

Serve topped with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes about 9 servings.

Recipe adapted from "Good Enough. A Cookbook Embracing the Joys of Imperfection & Practicing Self-Care in the Kitchen" by Leanne Brown (Workman, $19.95)