I go through phases. For months, I will dutifully write-out my weekly meal plan, go to the grocery store once a week, and proceed to make dinner according to the schedule. I will have flipped through my favorite cookbooks, blogs, and magazines and found new, inspiring recipes to create for my family. I will try new ingredients, new dishes, and feel an overall sense of accomplishment with myself.
But then, for no immediately apparent reason, the energy for it all will start to peter out. I’ll notice that instead of making the grilled pork tenderloin with the “brand new wild rice dish I’m trying out” on the side that was scheduled for that night’s dinner….I will whip up bean and cheese quesadillas with canned beans, pre-shredded cheese, jarred salsa, and some orange slices. Not that there’s anything wrong with that….no, the kids are fed, everyone is happy, but I’m left with a pantry of random ingredients.
To combat this problem, I made an unofficial 2012 resolution for myself….use up what you have before you buy new.
I am forcing myself, through sheer will-power, to use up the ingredients meant for a recipe that’s already been forgotten….before I go buy new tantalizing items.
I have not figured out the best way to be involved at my daughter’s high school. It’s a tricky situation. You want to be involved enough to have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on there…without cramping your child’s style. No matter how cool and hip you think you are, your kid doesn’t want you on their turf and you will never be cool…enough…even if you think to yourself, “Hey, I’m not looking too bad for being in my 40s!” That might be true, but your high schooler doesn’t see that. He thinks you look like every other parent out there trying to put a damper on his fun. At the beginning of the year, I signed up to help with the Hospitality Committee. Every other month or so, I get called up to make some cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and so on. Right up my alley. The only bummer is that the only amount of spying I can do on my daughter is during the time I walk through the front doors and drop off my goods at the office. Not a lot of recon I can do during that time. Good for her, but not so good for me. I need information people. Who are these people she’s hanging out with? Next year, I’m going to have to find a better plan for more in-depth spying but for now, I’ll stick with the baking.
A few weeks ago, I was called up to bake some goods for a big, hoo-ha, meeting involving our school officials. Sticking with my “unofficial resolution,” I pawed through my pantry for inspiration and darn it all if I didn’t have a stash of baking chocolate just begging to be used.
“Oh, poor me, I’ll just have to make something chocolatey!”
After much research, I discovered and made a recipe for what might be the best brownies I have ever had. Even the Rooster, who’s not a big chocolate guy (he prefers those little vanilla shortbread cookies with a drop of preserves or a candied cherry in the middle), searched me out in the house to let me know, “Damn sweetie, those brownies are amazing!”
They have that rich fudgy center with the perfect crust of concentrated butter, sugar and chocolate.
A few words about them since I’ve now made four batches of them. (And I seriously have to wonder why my jeans are a little tight.) Doubling the recipe and cooking two batches at once, isn’t the best idea. The batch on the bottom doesn’t cook well enough in the center. Also, stick with a conventional oven. Using the convection oven cooks the brownies evenly, but we don’t want even cooking. No, we want that outside crust of concentrated butter, sugar, and chocolate. And finally, they must be eaten within 24 hours. I don’t care how “air-tight” the container is….brownies don’t hold up after 24 hours. So, if you plan on making these for your sweetie on Valentine’s Day…simply get up early and do your baking. Or better yet, make them in the evening and eat them warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heaven….
While the “use up the chocolate” to make brownies was a hit with the family and the high school, the “use up the cabbage and potatoes” to make a watery soup with a few bits of ham a few nights ago, wasn’t as well received. Ah, well, you can’t please everyone, everyday.
I seriously have a bag of wild rice I purchased for a recipe I can no longer recall. Does anyone have any tasty, kid-pleasing ideas on what to do with it?
|Perhaps the Best Brownies I Have Ever Made||
- 4 oz. 99% cacao unsweetened dark chocolate (not the powder, the bar kind)
- ⅔ c butter
- 2 c sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ c all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If you do not have an oven thermometer, I recommend getting one. Since baking actually is like a chemistry experiment, having an oven off by even 25 degrees can affect your final product. Such an easy thing to fix. (Ummm, so easy and yet I finally bought one just the other week after 10 years of suspecting my oven gauge might be off a bit…which it was by about 25 degrees.)
- Grease a 9″x12″ (or thereabouts) pan or pyrex dish and set aside.
- Whip out your heavy bottomed dutch oven or soup pot. On low heat, melt your chocolate and butter in the pot.
- Take it off the heat and stir in your sugar with a whisk or a wooden spoon.
- One at a time, crack your eggs into the pot and whisk until incorporated.
- Stir in your vanilla.
- Dump your flour, salt, and baking powder on top of the rich chocolate mixture. With a fork mix the dry ingredients up a bit without digging into the chocolate.
- Pick up your wooden spoon or whisk again, and stir everything together until just combined. Don’t over stir. We don’t want that flour releasing all of its gluten. We’re not making bread people.
- Pour the whole gooey mess, into your prepared pan.
- Bake for about 25 minutes but check at 20.
- Don’t overbake. The brownies are done when a toothpick comes out almost clean.
- Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then cut into uniform squares.
- Makes at least 24 brownies or more, depending on how you cut them.
- Enjoy my friends!
- PS: If you are wondering about the room temperature eggs…it helps them emulsify better with the solid ingredients. Think chemistry class here people.
Original recipe, Karen’s Working Parent No Fuss-Brownies, (although, that sounds redundant, what parent isn’t working??)