baking

Don’t blog when you’re upset

Right now, my house seems like the setting of some screwball family comedy.  We just fixed the master bathroom toilet Sunday, and by pure coincidence, the sink in the same bathroom started to leak…straight through our kitchen ceiling.  You can’t turn on the upstairs or downstairs bathroom lights if you have heaters on in the two bedrooms.  I keep forgetting this and have to trek down to the basement in the early morning to flip the circuit breaker.  Then yesterday, the garage door decided not to close.  Can’t you see Lucille Ball cast as a real estate agent, showing the house to a young couple on a freezing January day.  Ethel would be poised in the basement, ready to flip the breaker after Lucy shows off the bathrooms, and then would rush upstairs and pretend to mop the kitchen floor with the bucket that’s been catching the leaking water.  On the way out, Lucy would promote the latest in “ventilated garages.”

I can write about this now, but yesterday I only wanted to write “AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!”  It wasn’t just the crazy house quirks.  Both my boys school starts at 9:00 am, and their schools are about 20 minutes apart.  It was 12 degrees yesterday morning, and my kids were whining, legitimately, about the freezing weather as I fought with the darn garage door.  My three-year-old easily gets into a sulk when routines change, and getting to pre-school after all the other kids were sitting in circle time threw him off for much of the day.  My 1-year-old daughter has a cold and a tooth coming through, so she pretty much spent the day crying and refusing to let me put her down.  At one point I tried to bribe her into sitting in her high chair with chocolate (mother of the year, right here), and she threw it at me.  To top it off, Moose had a half-day of kindergarten, which meant that my kids watched more TV and played more video games than I care to admit.  Really racking up the parenting points.

I should have spent the one hour my daughter napped on laundry or possibly a well-rounded, nutritious dinner, but the laundry wasn’t going anywhere, and loaded baked potatoes still sounded good.  I’ll make sure to have extra veggies on the plate tonight.  Yesterday, I needed to bake something.  I needed cookies.  So I made these:

toffeshortbread

For some reason I have an excess of sweetened condensed milk on hand, perhaps from last summer when I drank a lot of iced coffee.  A Google search for recipes using that ingredient brought up this toffee shortbread.  It’s  a a layer of shortbread, topped with a soft toffee, topped with melted chocolate.  They sounded delicious and bar cookies required just the amount of effort I was willing to put in yesterday.  Next time I make them, I think I’m going to try a different shortbread recipe; this one was a little to dense for me.  Still, just what I needed.  After dinner, as I took my first bite, I literally felt stress leave my body.

 

January Snow Day

Yesterday it was 58 degrees outside, and today there are several inches of snow on the ground, with at least a little more on the way.  My kids are home from school, my husband is home for work.  I’m not getting much of anything done, except eating.

 When my husband is home, I find I eat a lot more.  Normally on weekdays I keep things pretty under control, knowing I’ll indulge more on the weekend.  Snow days are the worst though.  There’s the fact that the whole family is together, combined with warm, cozy, baking thoughts and comfort food cravings.

And we’re totally giving into them today, giving into them all.  We had bagels and cream cheese this morning (thank you Panera’s “Happy Tuesday” deal), a hearty lunch of leftovers, and tonight I made spaghetti carbonara with chewy, fruity chocolate brownies.  I used to watch that show Northern Exposure, which takes place in a small town in Alaska.  There was one episode when all the townspeople were getting ready for the winter, trying to pack on pounds.  They local restaurant was advertising the food by how many calories it contained, but in the opposite way we’re used to.  “We’ve got a pecan pie with whip cream that clocks in at 930 calories, or a warm bread pudding with whiskey sauce and ice cream and a 1150.”  Hmmm…pecan pie and bread pudding…anyway, that’s how I am when snow rolls in.  I feel the urge to bulk up for the winter.

We didn’t even go outside today, although making a snowman is on the agenda for tomorrow (since most likely school will be out again).  I feel a little guilty about that, although at least this way no one saw the very amateur job I did on my daughter’s bangs last night.  The boys played games with their dad while I tried to learn about the DSLR I got for my birthday two years ago.  I’m a long way from actually being able to take really good pictures, but I can now take a picture in Manual mode and you can actually see what it is!  I used to just roll the dial for ISO and F-stop and hope that enough light made it through the lens to make out the subject, but now I kind of actually know before I click.

All that was written yesterday.  I wanted to publish a post, but before I could finish it I got caught up in brownies and wine and Sherlock.

The snowman is not happening today.  We were outside a total of two minutes before the screaming about how cold it was started.  At least two of my kids have pretty thin skin.

I get to make four dinners today instead of one since I neglected to look at the use-by date on the ground beef until this morning. I’m sure later on I will appreciate this, but not today.

There needs to be school tomorrow.  I never thought I’d be one of those parents dying to get their kids off to school, but I guess I am.

but back to those brownies…

brownie

I get brownie cravings a lot.  I am a “chocolate person.”  I have  few friends who tell me that they’re not, and I nod politely like I understand, but I don’t.  Brownies are one of my favorite ways to enjoy chocolate.  When they’re good, they are dense and rich.  I tried to make Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies my go- to recipe, but although they are AMAZING, they’re a lot of work, and they yield way too many when you just are trying to get a chocolate fix.  I’ll them for a party or a bake sale, but for the most part it’s Yvette van Boven’s Chewy Chocolate Raisin Brownies all the way.

I know some people aren’t big on raisins, or any fruit/chocolate combo.  You can just leave them out.  Sometimes I add hazelnuts and do a fruit/nut brownie.  Sometimes I don’t add anything but sprinkle them with fleur de sel. I didn’t have chocolate covered raisins on hand, so I used some chocolate covered pomegranate a friend had given me.  Just try to use the best quality chocolate you can.

Chewy Chocolate Raisin Brownies adapted from Yvette van Boven’s Homemade

  • 1 1/4 sticks butter, cubed
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar*
  • 1 1/3 cup self rising flour**
  • pinch of salt (I like a little salt to my sweets, so I use a generous pinch)
  • 1 cup chocolate covered raisins

*if you don’t have vanilla sugar, just add about a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract along with 2 tsp of regular sugar

**I frequently don’t have self rising flour on hand. You can make your own by adding 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt per 1 cup of flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter/grease a 9″ pan.

Melt your butter and chocolate.  You can do this by microwaving it for about two minutes, taking occasional breaks to stir, or you can do this in a double boiler.  I like to use the double boiler method.  That way I can enjoy the smell and smooth texture of the melted chocolate and butter, and I don’t have to worry about butter exploding in my microwave.  Once it’s all melted, let it cool for a few minutes.

In another bowl, beat your eggs and sugars until foamy.  Slowly fold in the cooled chocolate until well combined, and then gently fold in the flour and salt.  Lastly, add your raisins or whatever additive you like.  Pour into your pan and bake for about 25 minutes.  It may take longer (it did in my oven), but look for a crinkly top and a tooth pick stuck in the middle should come out clean.

 

Catch Up Days

I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong, because every morning we reenact the battle of the coats and shoes.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much advance time I give them (today I gave the almost 20 minutes), I end up getting my mean mom voice out, telling them we have to leave now!  The short ride to school is then spent calming down, trying to make sure my son isn’t super stressed before I send him off to kindergarten.  On the way back, I get to play an *awesome* game that my 3-year-old recently invented:  Every 3 seconds he tells me “straight” or “turn”.  I have to answer “okay” each time, except I’m supposed to randomly say “McDonald’s,” to which he will reply “We got another pancake.”  Seriously, it’s easier on the days we just walk.

But I’m getting into a productive groove, which is good, because this is a catch up day.  All of my sons’ clothes are clean, but they’re still in the hamper, in the living room.  This is a normal state for laundry in my house, but hearing my son whine this morning, “Mom, I’m tired of getting dressed downstairs,” has activated my maternal guilt.  I’ve already babysat for a friend, someone I’m comfortable with enough not to mind her seeing said laundry in my living room.  I baked some homemade bread.  It didn’t turn out quite right; one side rose perfectly and the other looks like it just got tired and gave up, drooping over the side of the pan.  It won’t be the best for sandwiches but I’m sure it will make delicious French Toast.  I’m still looking for my perfect sandwich bread recipe.

The little bread that couldn't

The little bread that couldn’t

Now it’s off to the store for milk and few ingredients for tonight’s dinner, Italian Bread Soup.  And maybe before school gets out, I’ll bake something for dessert tonight.  I guess the laundry can wait a little while.