Sunday, August 31, 2008

good girl brownies

This darling little face belongs to my daughter. She seems to come up quite often in this blog (and her birthday cake is the catalyst that got the blog rolling to begin with) and so I've decided to introduce them: Gabrielle, this is mommy's blog; blog, this is Gabrielle.

I realize I could have posted a picture with her smiling or laughing or banging two completely unrelated objects together (the other day it was a pen and a flip flop), but this picture embodies everything my little child is. The sassy eyebrow and the smirk--it is a face we see often, particularly when she's about to do something sneaky, has just done something sneaky, or is just plain being funny. My daughter makes me laugh.

Yesterday morning we were playing a game called 'I'll put your clothes into the drawer and you'll take them back out again.' I tried to show her how to put clothes back into the drawer and close it. Once accomplished, we both clapped and said 'yeah!' 'Yeah' was the only word I thought she knew until we put clothes away a second time, she clapped and said 'guh guhl'. I didn't quite understand it at first until she did, and said it again--Gabrielle was mimicking what my husband and I tell her so often when she when she's accomplished something, 'good girl!' I'm not the most sentimental person, but I was quite close to tears. That little baby's growing up.

And it got me thinking about praises a bit, how we should tell each other 'good job' more often. My mother is one of the most encouraging people I know and gives hugs because 'hugs give energy.' She reminds me to tell my husband how appreciative I am of him, because sometimes, in the daily grind, you forget to tell those around you just how fantastic they are.

Which brings me to some fantastic brownies! Courtesy of Joy The Baker , my husband and I indulged in some seriously delicious brownies last night--a la mode, of course--and, oh, were they worth every calorie (I even had a couple bites after breakfast this morning). Enjoy!

Old School Fudge Brownies with walnuts and chocolate chunks

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter
2 Tablespoons strong coffee or water
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate bar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan. (I used a 9-inch round cake pan.)
Combine butter and cocoa powder in a small bowl, and place over a pot of simmering water. Make sure that the simmering water down not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the coffee or water and stir to melt the ingredients.
In a medium sized bowl whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Add the vanilla extract. When the butter and chocolate have melted and come together, slowly stir the chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine. Fold in the nuts, saving a small handful for the top of the brownies if you like.
Pour the batter in the pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips or chocolate chunks and remaining nuts. Bake for 18-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cut into bars.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

girls night in

Sometimes the only thing better than a girls night out is a girls night in and last night the U-City Itty Bitties were all about it. What is U-City you ask? It is the playgroup the daughter and I have attended for about a year now. Last night was the first official girls night in and it's amazing (actually, hilarious) what happens when you get a group of hot mommies together sans babies. The world becomes a lighter place--throw some great food, red wine and khalua and cream on top of that and we've got a party (and a few rather wasted ladies, I might add). The night was a much needed treat for me and a great way to end the summer. Fall semester begins tomorrow and it's back to books, accounting, and economics--the two subjects that absolutely make my head spin with confusion. But there's always the image and the memory of the cutest little cosmopolitan cookies and chocolate cupcakes I made for girls night in to get me through the mind-numbing number crunching. The best cupcake frosting I've ever tasted once again comes from the Confetti Cakes cookbook (see book to the right) and chocolate cupcakes from The Cupcake Bakeshop .

Thursday, August 21, 2008


As the fall approaches and all the kiddies (to include this big kid herself) enjoy the last few days of freedom before school begins again, I seem to be learning lessons at every turn. First, a lesson in patience, of which, I have none. Not even after 15 months of being a mother have I acquired a never-ending supply of paitience. My daughter was on par with everything regarding her development with one exception: her teeth. Until about three weeks ago, she was the biggest, toothless baby for miles. All of a sudden her four front teeth are emerging and she is just not having it. She's cranky, she's whiny, she's crying--I'm cranky, I'm whining, I'm crying. Lesson #1: get over it. Sometimes things just suck. It will pass. Lesson #2: things don't always work out the way you plan them. What's the saying? 'If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.' Well let me just tell you, I've got the good Lord rolling! I'm a planner to a fault sometimes and when things don't quite work out I throw an inner (and sometimes outer) hissy fit. This week I worked on a cake for the staff at my husband's school. He is a technology something or other at a high school and I attempted a two-layer cake (bottom layer- 10" square and top an 8" round) for the staff retreat. Well, something about the bottom layer just didn't sit right and it sunk in the middle which proved disastrous when I put the top layer on. Fortunately, the top layer worked out fine and I sent the cake along, a day late, but still happy with the results. The cooperating layer was the fabulous vanilla cake recipe from Confetti Cakes (see book to the right) with a strawberry filling and vanilla buttercream by Wilton. This weekend's venture is cupcakes and cookies--I have a new martini glass cookie cutter I've been dying to try. This time, I'll try not to plan so much, but, until then, here's the recipe for strawberry filling:

Strawberry filling

-1 pound of clean strawberries; quartered

-3/4 cup of sugar

-2 tablespoons of cornstarch
-The juice of half a lemon

1. Place the strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the strawberries burst and start to look like jam. Remove from heat and squeeze half a lemon. Cool completely to room temperature.2. Put the strawberries in a food processor and pulse until small pieces of strawberry remain. 3. Move strawberry filling to a bowl and cover. Refrigerate a couple of hours.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

beachy keen

I honestly can't think of anything better than lying around poolside (or seaside if you like), beneath an umbrella with a cold beverage in one hand and a frivolous magazine in the other--can you? That is how the dear husband and I spent a few days last week in Daytona beach at the fabulous Shores Resort and Spa to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Seems like only yesterday I was a (skinny) girl of 23 in a big white dress holding a lovely bouquet of roses to marry a man who would later confess that, due to an eye condition, I was nothing but a big white blur coming down the aisle--he could barely see anything. But, one house, dog, and daughter, two lost wedding rings (his, not mine), and five years later, here we are, just kicking along and making this married thing look easy. All jokes aside, my husband is one of the most caring, selfless, and kind people I have ever met and I love him dearly for it. He is wonderful when it is least deserved...and most of all, he just loves me.
But now, to the cake! The cake was for my father's 54th birthday and was supposed to be reminiscent of his youth as a twenty-something living in California. First, let me say this--Florida and fondant are NOT very fond of each other. The humidity was ridiculous and the fondant let me know with every crack and disobedient fold it made. Not to mention I covered and decorated this cake in record time (for me, anyway) with four children--yes, four!--2 years old and under running around at a family get together. I finished the cake literally one minute before my dad walked in the door. Happily, he seemed pleased--and happily, I left him the next day with my daughter as my husband and I drove, sans responsibilities, to the beach.

Spice Cake recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, New Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs

In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Add buttermilk or sour milk, butter, shortening, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat 2 minutes on high speed. Add eggs and beat 2 minutes more.

Pour batter into a greased 13x9x2 in pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 servings.