Positive Reinforcement...

I really try hard not to be too much of a nag. Nagging seems to come naturally to me, but basically every source of relationship wisdom in the world warns me of its deleterious effect on relationships, so I work hard to find other means of getting my way. Most of the time, I try to frame all my requests for cleaning and household chores in the sweetest way possible, or drop hints about how happy I would be if some project were to be completed. Luckily for me, Justin is very good at picking up on my subtlety, and I rarely have to advance to more aggressive forms of pressure, but occasionally I have to up my game.

That is where bribery comes in. For instance, Justin's parents have been asking him for months now to come back to their house and finish cleaning out his bedroom so they can use it as a guest room. Back when we moved in late January, Justin's room was in such a state that there simply wasn't time to deal with all of its contents, so he focused on what he would need to bring with him, and postponed dealing with all of his papers, mementos, and tchotchkes from the twenty-nine years he spent inhabiting the space. Understandably, however, now that he is gone, his parents want to reclaim the room.

We've made a couple trips over to their house in the last month for Justin to work on cleaning, but it didn't feel like we were making a lot of progress. So I came up with an idea for him to spend the night there over a weekend to work at chipping away at it, but Justin needed a little encouragement to sign on to my plan. So I promised him that if he went and made some serious headway, I would make him a special treat.

I had something in mind that I wanted to bake for him -- some apricot bar cookies I had seen in Baked Explorations when I was flipping through it and found his birthday cake. Since my man is a huge apricot fan, I predicted that he would love these bars, but I still wanted to wait for the right moment to come along to make them. They seemed like just the thing to reward him for a weekend of hard work, and provide some positive reinforcement for doing some cleaning and organizing.

I ended up making the bars today, before I sent him off for the weekend, because I didn't want to have the whole batch of bar cookies sitting around for him to eat by himself. Though it went against the doctrine of positive reinforcement to give him his reward before doing the work, I also wanted to share the bars with his family, to spread the love. Besides, I knew his family would appreciate them as well, since that's where he gets his apricot obsession

Like many Baked recipes, this one was a little unorthodox. It called for adding rosemary, an herb not typically associated with sweets, to a buttery shortbread base, then topping it with a layer of pureed dried apricots and honey, and finally, a crunchy layer of pecans and crumb topping. Though I could pick up on the rosemary right away, Justin was none the wiser. For him, it just added a special something that he couldn't quite put his finger on, though he knew he liked them. In fact, I think he was a little sad that he was being asked to share them.

For my part, though I don't love apricots in the same way that Justin does, I enjoyed these bars as well. The apricot filling was sticky and chewy, with a beautiful tartness. The rosemary added a woody fragrance that complimented the fruit surprisingly well, and the crumb topping drew everything together. They were truly exceptional, and a worthy incentive for Justin.

I'm not sharing the recipe, just because it was exceptionally lengthy, and it took most of an afternoon to complete. If you are interested, you can either pick up your own copy of Baked Explorations (I'm seriously contemplating adding it to my collection of Baked books myself), or pick it up from your local library like I did...

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