Brownies Your Pet Octopus Will Love!

Recipe Alert! I’ve struggled with the idea of sharing this recipe, feeling territorial with my famous brownie recipe. It’s hard to let go of family secrets. But this recipe is just so delicious, and you’re all such faithful readers. I’ve decided to lighten up and share this recipe with the world. I can’t wait for you all to try it out!

But first, a story…

As a child, whenever I needed a pick-me-up, mom would strap on her apron, pray to the gods of pastry, and weave a trail of magic through the air.

Even now, when the rich smell of brownies permeates the air (that perfect alchemy of chocolate, sugar, and butter that seduces the taste buds), I am blanketed with feelings of warmth and comfort. Tendrils of nostalgia pluck at my skin, and I am reminded, not only of my late pet octopus but the delicious brownies that were as much a part of my childhood as homework tears and rusted bikes. (You’re going to love this recipe when I share it with you!)

If my mother noticed I was feeling low, she would say, “Come on, dear, let’s bake those blues away.” Instantly any sadness I felt would melt away.

Mom and I would make our way to the kitchen, passing the chocolate river, funny dancing gnomes, and the experimentation lab where novelties like gravy-flavored bubble gum were created. This was back when my mother worked R & D for Willy Wonka … before the factory exploded. A tragedy of epic proportions, and quite the mess for blocks and blocks. I don’t think they ever got the dark baking chocolate completely cleaned up. People will be walking along making a thwack thwack noise as their sneakers stick to the sidewalk and you’ll see them cautiously looking at the bottoms of their shoes to see what they could have stepped in. And us old folks, the only ones who remember, will smile to ourselves with the bittersweet memories. (Bittersweet! Get it?)

Authorities never came out with an official statement, but some blamed it on the Evangelicals. Apparently, they had tried to recruit the Grandfather (on account of his miraculous “golden ticket” recovery after years of illness and an inability to walk or participate in household chores). Unfortunately for the family (and chocolate lovers worldwide), they determined him to be a fraud. The kid was so enraged (whether at the Evangelicals or his Grandfather, I don’t know) he blew up the factory. Thankfully nobody was hurt, and I heard he went to work for a used car dealership up in Ottawa.

After the factory incident, my mother and I met up with a band of traveling entertainers. We quickly learned that I did not know how to play the accordion with a monkey on my head, and Mom just couldn’t get the brownies baked quite right over an open fire. We decided we simply couldn’t live like that anymore. The brownies were just too good to live without. (Seriously, I cannot wait to show you this recipe!)

Eventually, we found an apartment in Muncie catty-corner from a nightclub. Mom got a job working nights doing the hula-hooping/spatula juggling act she had perfected with the traveling entertainers. During the week, I went to the high school just across the highway during the day and babysat the neighbor’s worm farm in the evening. What with all our activities, mom and I didn’t see each other much during the week. But when the weekend came and the Saturday morning opossum races at the Dollar Store parking lot were over, we skipped into the kitchen ready for brownies! (The recipe is so good! You’re going to love it!)

After washing the smell of over-exerted marsupial from our hands, we’d tie on our aprons and gather the ingredients. We kept the windows open so the lovely sounds of the high school band practice could waft through while we baked.

These are my favorite childhood memories; squeezing past each other in the 3×4 foot kitchen, the broken sounds of squeaky tubas and asthmatic trumpets piercing the air, and the comforting anticipation of fresh-baked brownies. Mom measured the ingredients (Wait until you read what they are! You will be amazed!), I poured them into the bowl, then the electric mixer would get to work. Mom always let me lick the beaters when she was done. Sometimes, when she was feeling particularly generous, she would even turn them off first. Ahhh… memories. We’d then pour the batter into the baking dish, pop it in the oven, and wait, counting slowly to sixty twenty-five times. (A secret part of the recipe that you’ll LOVE!)

Oh, the giddiness of the wait. The deepening scent of brownie sweetness. The way the machete sliced cleanly into the crispy top layer of warm deliciousness. We never could wait for the brownies to cool, always ate them fresh out of the oven. The doctor said my burned taste buds will never grow back, but you know what, it was all worth it! I wouldn’t trade those afternoons with my mom for anything, not even a tongue free of scar tissue.

And Mom? She stills does her hula-hooping act, only now it’s with her in-house mime troupe at Our Lady of the Aardvark Retreat Center (now that’s a story for another day!). She can’t bake the brownies like she used to (having lost three fingers from her right hand in a cocktail umbrella fight down in Cancun), so I’ve picked up the torch.

It’s time this legendary recipe was shared with the world! So now, without further ado, I give you the most delicious brownie recipe EVER! Enjoy!

brownie mix1

Just Desserts

Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart. Food. Not just any food. Dessert.  Sweet snacks. Sugary goodness. My absolute favorite part of the meal. Sometimes I eat dessert first. Sometimes I eat only dessert. I will actually go out just to get dessert or a sweet snack. It depends on if I have found the ideal restaurant that has what I consider a decent dessert. I have yet to find a place with the perfect dessert menu or a pastry chef with extraordinary talents. So for now, I settle for decent or satisfactory. And that is good enough. In case you didn’t know, I take my desserts seriously.

The Dutch gave us a Stroopwafel which is literally a syrup waffle. I know, right!? Yum! The French gave the world a Tarte Tatin, an amazing apple tart. With only four ingredients, it’s a hell of a lot easier to make than apple pie and is much yummier in my opinion. Ireland came up with Irish Whiskey Cake – I mean, really, how can you go wrong there? Do you know what they have in Sweden? Waffle day! Yes, it’s on the 25th of March, which is known as Våffeldagen. I bet if Leslie Knope ever had to live somewhere other than Pawnee, she’d move to Sweden. I certainly wouldn’t mind living in Sweden just to experience Waffle Day. But I digress. The Swedes came up with a snack called a Semla Bun which is a bun made out of wheat that’s flavored with cardamom and stuffed full of whipped cream (the real deal, none of that fake out of a plastic tub stuff) and almond paste. Don’t even get me started on Belgium. Their myriad of chocolates alone is amazing.  Italy created Marzipan, an absolutely decadent confection consisting primarily of sugar or honey and almond meal which can be sculpted into pretty much anything, although it’s often seen as fruit – and tastes delicious by the way. It doubles as cake decorations, so it’s not just lovely, it’s the hard-working multi-tasker of the dessert kingdom.

And what do we have in America as our claim to fame for sweets? Carnival food. Deep fried Oreos and Cheesecake on a stick. Crispy Crème hamburgers. I saw one of those travel shows with a guy who visits diners and restaurants across the country and in one place they were battering and deep-frying Cadbury Creme Eggs. As if the world needs that. Did you know that there actually exists in this country as a snack deep-fried butter? Now I ask you –  is such a thing really necessary? No, don’t answer that. I’m afraid to hear your answer.

I love sweets with the best of them, couldn’t give up my beloved confections on a bet nor would I want to. But I just can’t seem to work up an appetite for some of the choices I’m all too often being offered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a dessert snob, I’m truly not. But come on people, we can do better!

Now, I’m not going to debate the obesity issues we have here in the States but what I will argue is the sheer lack of creativity in all of this sugary mess. I went to a Friendly’s Restaurant many weeks ago with my daughter, and for those of you who may not be familiar, these restaurants are known for their family friendly atmosphere as well as their ice cream. Upon entry, we immediately ran into a sign (well, not literally mind you, we weren’t hurt or anything, it was just there so you couldn’t miss it) that advertised their special desserts for the summer. And one of the specials was Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches. It was a special dessert. Special. Dessert.

Now we’re not talking a fancy-shmancy restaurant here, I get it, I do, but still.  Are we that out of ideas for desserts and sweet snacks that we have to not only recycle the idea of ice cream sandwiches but also the idea behind Pop Tarts??  I see a similar phenomenon occurring in other, more upscale places as well. There’s simply no creativity anymore. Everything is deep-fried or else it’s Crème Brule.

Does no one take dessert seriously anymore? Or once they graduate culinary school, do the talented pastry chefs quickly skedaddle off to Europe where they might find themselves whipping up something more interesting than Cheesecake on a stick? If so, I wouldn’t blame them in the least.

Or perhaps…maybe…just maybe…is it possible these masters of pastries and sugary goodies are hiding out there somewhere and I just haven’t found them yet? And if so, can someone please, please tell me where, and slip me the password so I can get in?

 

Pop Tarts pass as a dessert special apparently

Pop Tarts pass as a dessert special apparently

 

stroopwafel_dutch_foods

Stroopwafel literally means syrup waffle – yes, please!

 

tarte tatin

Tarte Tatin – a beautiful presentation AND yummy!

 

irish whiskey cake

Irish whiskey and cake — how can you go wrong?

 

Semla Bun

a Semla Bun looks absolutely delish!

 

marzipan

lovely Marzipan, wish I had even half the talent it takes to create these

Really, Betty Crocker?

So I saw these at the grocery store yesterday. Maple Bacon Cookies. And if that’s not bad enough, there is Maple Bacon Icing to go on the Maple Bacon Cookies. No, I didn’t buy any. Is this what we’ve come to folks? I guess they’re a “thing,” because otherwise they wouldn’t be at the grocery store, right? Displayed prominently on the outer aisle no less. But I just can’t imagine that they’re actually good.  At least I’m not willing to try.  I know, I know, I always tell my kids…try something at least once before passing judgement.  But in this case, I vehemently choose not to practice what I preach.

 

maple bacon cookie mix

COOKIE MIX

 

ICING FOR THE COOKIE MIX

ICING FOR THE FINISHED COOKIES — SEE THE LITTLE CRUMBLIES TO PUT OVER THE TOP? 

Fall Fest

Fall isn’t quite here yet and I’m anxious for it to start already…so I’m kinda pushing it along as much as I can. I love everything about it. The weather, the leaves changing, the clothes, the seasonal new candle smells that come out this time of year, specially flavored coffees, and more importantly the food. Fall is a time when you can kick the oven in gear to bake things without also baking the humans living inside the house. Not only do you get yummy things to eat when you’re done, but you make the house smell yummy as well.

So — for all of you who enjoy Fall eating as much as me, here’s a tip on how to enjoy some pumpkin pie.

 

pumpkin pie

A Little Help, Please?

I love scones. What’s not to love? They’re delicious. When done right, that is. According to Grocery Budget 101, “Scones are a simple, forgiving treat that even an inexperienced baker can throw together easily.” Well. That should make things easy. Any one of you should be able to toddle on over and just whip me up a batch or two or three of these to die for looking scones I found a recipe for the other day (Pumpkin Raisin Scones!) without a problem in the world.  Don’t look at me like that. I know my limitations and I simply don’t have enough Baileys to pull this recipe off.   But, I’ll leave the light on…AND preheat the oven!

Hey, the article even says, these delightful pastries are: “are perfect for those back to school mornings on the go.” (emphasis is mine)

I’m looking at you here M-O-T-H-E-R…your granddaughter needs sustenance. Of course don’t let the fact that her picky eating habits would never ever allow anything even slightly resembling a raisin much less something called a scone (gasp!) pass her lips even bother you for a moment. They are a back to school necessity, I tell you!

Oh!  And I bet they would go really well with that Irish potato soup recipe I emailed you last week. What? Do you think I just send you these things for no reason?? That’s what happens when you cook so well. Guess you should’ve thought of that all those years ago when you started spoiling everyone and we all got so used to it. Bet you wish you had burned more dinners now, don’t you?

And as for anyone else who wants to try their hand…I’m more than happy to be a guinea pig. Just send those scones on over to me!  I’ll get the Devonshire Cream!

 

CLICK FOR RECIPE!

CLICK FOR RECIPE!

Baking Day (or Useful Tips)

Today was a “baking” day. And today’s concoction was candy. So just in case anyone is interested in making Rachael Ray’s delicious 5 minute fudge wreath, it took me slightly longer than 5 minutes (try 30), a pretty hefty shot of Bailey’s, a burned tongue (don’t ask me how), only 750 swear words, and one slightly overwhelming sense of failure.  Easy Peasy! 

Fudge Wreath

Picture from Recipe

 

MY results....somehow not quite the same as the photo in the recipe

MY results after 2 tries at a ‘wreath’….just doesn’t look quite the same, does it?