Category Archives: Cooking

Mother’s Day Make

Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the Mommas out there. Now that the day has come and gone I can share the gift I made my wonderful mother!

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A wallet! She was in desperate need for a new one so I looked up a bunch of patterns. This was by far my favorite so I just kind of ran with it and picked up fabrics that reminded me of her. Her favorite color is red but she’s a little too conservative to work an all red wallet, so I save the color for the inside. She was really pumped about it and so I am honestly. It came out great!

Here are some other views:

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From the side

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The inside. It has six card slots, plus large pockets on both sides for cash, extra cards, etc., plus a change pocket.  And trust me, she needs all the space she can get. Her last one was falling apart from being continuously overstuffed and forced shut. I also made the tab a little longer so hopefully she can always snap it close – no matter how many photos, rewards cards and pennies she hangs on to.

She and my family were all really impressed, which may be because we’ve never been a family of crafters so anything handmade that doesn’t look like crap is a total shock… but I do think it came out pretty well. They suggested I start selling them. What do you think? Would you buy one?

 

The rest of Mother’s Day was lovely too.

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Unbelievable peonies from our garden!

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They smell so good too!

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We had a shrimp boil for Mother’s Day lunch!

It was ridiculously easy. Just toss a bag of Old Bay shrimp boil seasoning into a large pot of boiling water. Add a quartered lemon and then potatoes, corn, sausage and shrimp (at different times, in order of how long they take to cook, duh). Either dump it on a big table covered in parchment or fish all the goodies out like we did. The seasoning was just right and the lemon really comes through. Delicious!

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Mom set out some boxes for me to take back to Indy with me in preparation for the big move. You have no clue how hard it was to not just box up this little (ok, he’s pretty big) cutie and just take him back with me. If I would I could Mr. Phil, sorry buddy!

I hope everyone else had a great Mother’s Day. What other things did people make for their mommas?!

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Dinner extravaganza and the world’s best lemon cake!

Before we get to the food, a better picture of my first Sorbetto! It is making it’s debut at work today pained with dress pants from Loft, a a light pink cardigan from Old Navy and white sandals from Target. It’s a little cool today but the hot pink in the top matches my hot pink pedicure. I couldn’t resist.

 

So to thank my lovely boyfriend for driving all the way up to see me on a weeknight, I decided to make a rather extravagant dinner. Now, I usually cook nice meals for us on the weekends, but during the week I don’t do much special for just me. Honestly, probably 3 out of 4 nights I have a chicken breast with brown rice and edamame. It’s super easy and I’m not sick of it yet.

Anywho, Tuesday night was much more elaborate. I attempted to make not just a nice dinner, but a cohesive one. With a salad/vegetable, starch and protein. AND dessert.

So here’s the menu:

Snap pea, radish and feta salad

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Potato, apple and onion gratin

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Panko-crusted pork chops

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Lemon yogurt cake

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And it was a hit!

The first three were all added from Bon Appetit recipes.

The salad was a snap and I forgot to take pictures. Essentially, you just trim the peas and then cut them in half on the diagonal. Add thin slices of radish and crumbled feta. Dressing was super simple, but I left out the sumac the recipe calls for because they only sumac I know of is the poisonous plant. I’m too poor to bother with obscure ingredients I will probably never use again. Anywho, the salad was delicious (the boy even had seconds!) but was not so good the second day. It may have been better had I not already dressed it. Oh well, lesson learned.

The gratin was just about as simple. Thin slice the onions and cut down in butter. Toss with thin sliced potatoes and apples. Bake. I halved the recipe, but forgot to change the time which may be why it looks a little overdone. Or because I don’t have a glass dish and cooked it in a metal one instead. IDK if that makes a big difference or not… This gratin has no cream or cheese but still feels really rich. It kind of melts in your mouth – so good!

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The pork chops were not quite as successful but still good. The comments on the recipe said the red wine vinegar was too strong, so I used apple cider vinegar since that’s what I had on hand anyway and thought it would be milder. For some reason apple and pork just seem to go anyway. I also lightly rinsed the chops after they marinated to make sure they weren’t too sour. The vinegar ended up being pretty light but I’d rather have that than have it be too strong. After they marinate just dredge in flour, egg and the panko herb mixture. The crust was super delicious but it didn’t stick very well. I’m not really sure why that was. Also, you definitely want to be sure to pound them thin as the recipe suggest. Otherwise they don’t cook through all the way. I had to pop two of them in the oven for a few to get them cooked all the way through.

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The pièce de résistance though was the cake. It’s from a rather old Barefoot Contessa cookbook that was SO overdue to the library (which is really sad because I live across the street). It’s a yogurt cake, so there is no milk or butter.

Ingredients:
1.5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
*I’m not sure about the amounts for the glaze. That’s what I wrote down but I needed WAY more lemon juice to get it the right consistency. Just add until the glaze becomes thin enough to stir smooth, but not runny.

Oven at 350, grease and flour loaf pan

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into one bowl. Whisk yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla into another bowl. Slowly whisk dry ingredients into wet. With rubber a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter making sure it’s all incorporated (just keep stirring!).

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Pour batter into pan and bake for 50 min. Cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. When cake is done, let cool 10 minutes. While still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mix over cake and let soak in. Cool. Top with glaze (just mix confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and stir until smooth).

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Let me just say that this might be the most popular thing I’ve made. Pat was flipping over it and everyone at work raved as well. According to Pat, it’s even better the next after its been in the fridge for a day. I didn’t have anymore (not after so much indulgence and no gym the night before).

I highly recommend it and will definitely make it again!

PS: How do you make those gray border/boxes around the pictures go away? They’re driving me nuts and messing up my photo setup…

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This is not real life.

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Okay, I just want to preface this post by saying the weather in Indiana right now is INSANE!!! Seriously, I laid out on the roof of Pat’s house in my bathing suit in March… in Indiana! And I was sweating. It is Indiana summer weather here right now and I don’t know why but I am not mad, at all.

Just enjoying it.

But I eventually did come in from the gorgeous weather to cook lasagna rolls! It was a new recipe and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I will for sure make these again!

The recipe was adapted from this one by Giada De Laurentiis. I like Giada’s recipes but I changed this one just a little.

Here is my version:

Ingredients:
Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4  cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
Okay, I read this wrong and accidentally used 4 tablespoons of flour. Obviously, I had to add a lot more milk to thin it out. It ended up a nice consistency and I was actually happy with the amount that I had. Also, I didn’t have any nutmeg (I was cooking at Pat’s, so there is lots of improvisation that has to happen. Before me, his kitchen had NOTHING. NOTHING. Now it has slightly more than nothing) so I put in a tiny splash of vanilla extract. I also added more salt and pepper because of the extra flour/milk. It was a kind of a hot mess but it ended up good at the end of it all.

Lasagna:

  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 cups shredded fresh spinach
  • 1 lb ground beef, browned
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (or any kind, really)
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
Giada’s version called for frozen spinach, but I kind of hate that watery mess so I chopped up fresh spinach and mixed that in. I was really happy with the result. Also, Giada called for prosciutto but it’s more expensive and less hearty than ground beef. I browned ground beef before hand and mixed that in. I chose to add a little oregano and red pepper flake  to the beef but that is totally optional. I also didn’t have parmesan like her recipe called for so I just substituted mozzarella. Again, I was really happy with the result and all the changes. Though I haven’t made the original, I don’t think I ever will. I liked this way too much.
Directions:

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the bechamel sauce.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brown the ground beef.
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Mix the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup mozzarella, beef, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

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Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay out noodles on a work surface, then spread a large spoonful (about 3 tablespoons worth) of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle.

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Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching, atop the bechamel sauce in the dish.

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Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture.

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Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the lasagna rolls.

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Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until hot, and serve alongside.

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It’s a keeper!  Enjoy!

 

And stay tuned for more sewing coming soon. I finally finished Pat’s robe and I’m now planning to take up some (hopefully) quicker projects. I’ve already cut out the pieces for this skirt I’m going to start Monday. I’m pretty excited for it, so wish me luck!

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Looking for award-winning chili?!

That’s right folks, I won the chili cook-off at work!

I still can’t believe it… my first time out of the chili cooking gate. Admittedly, I had quite a bit of help from Bon Appetit. I used this recipe as a base, but made some adjustments for the time and resources available to me.

It won rave reviews and I’ve already gotten several requests for the recipe, so here is my version:

Ingredients:

  • 2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans
  • 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 3 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Optional:
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Purchased tomatillo or green chili salsa
Directions
  • Boil chicken breasts for 25-30 minutes, depending on size. Let cool, then shred.
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  • Drain and rinse beans.
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  • Melt butter in clean heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 15 minutes.
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    Add flour and stir 5 minutes (do not brown).

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    Gradually whisk in chicken broth and half and half. Simmer gently until thickened, about 10 minutes.
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    Add beans, chilies, shredded chicken, and next 5 ingredients.
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    Simmer gently to blend flavors, about 20 minutes.
    Optional:
  • Add grated cheese and sour cream to chili; stir just until chili is heated through and cheese melts (do not boil). Ladle chili into bowls and garnish with cilantro and green salsa. Serve.

I must say, it was quite tasty. I can’t wait to make it again!

Let me know what you think. Do you guys have any favorite chili recipes?

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Love the smell of fresh baked anything…

So this post was supposed to go yesterday, but I fell asleep typing. As much as I enjoy blogging, I think it’s bad for my health, or at least my sleep pattern.

Anywho, my apartment was filled with the DE-lightful smell of fresh baked banana bread last night! I had some bananas that were about to go bad – go figure – so of course there’s nothing else to do with them. The recipe I used is adapted from one of my all time favorite possessions. It’s a cookbook called “Nutbread and Nostalgia” and it was put together by the South Bend (Ind.) junior league in the 1970s. My mom and grandma both have a copy and so many of the recipes I remember them making while I was growing up were from this book. My mom found it for a reasonable price on Amazon and it was probably the best Christmas present I got, except maybe my sewing machine 🙂

It’s super old school and the recipes are awesome, like this banana bread.

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Adapted from “Nutbread and Nostalgia”: Banana-pecan bread

1 C softened butter
2 C sugar
4 eggs
4 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7 medium bananas, mashed
1 C finely chopped pecans
1 T shredded coconut

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture alternately with bananas to cream mixture. Mix thoroughly. With a wooden spoon, stir in pecans and coconut until evenly distributed. Crease and flour three 9×5 loaf pans. Bake at 300 or 1 hour. Makes three loaves.

*Note: I halved the recipe and cooked it for 30 minutes in a 9×13 cake pan. Came out perfect! I also left out the coconut and added about a cup of chocolate chips instead. Chocolate chips in banana bread? Oh yeah, trust me. I also left out the pecans, instead sprinkling walnuts (they’re cheaper) just on the top of one half because there is a sizable anti-nut faction in my office.

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Into the 300 oven it goes…

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Then 30 minutes later… ta-da!

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It’s a really moist almost cake-like bread. And it got RAVE reviews at work.

Yesterday was a productive day for me. I also finished Pat’s robe (pause for reaction) and cleaned out my machine. I had never even thought about needing to clean the damn thing until I read this post on one of my favorite new sewing blogs: Did You Make That?

I didn’t even know you could open her up like this, let alone that you should. But as I was in between projects, I thought there could be no better time. I used a cotton swab to clean out all of the lint. I also replaced her needle so she’s looking all shiny and new again.

I did save the old needle though to use during some of my paper projects. That way I won’t have to worry about dulling or damaging a good needle on the machine.

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I will post pictures of Pat’s robe once he has it on because I just look too ridiculous. I’ve also got a post coming on my next project – this super cute. I got this great plaid fabric on sale at JoAnn’s so I’m pretty excited. I will also reveal the chicken and white bean chili recipe I chose! The cook-off is tomorrow, so wish me luck!

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Light at the end of the tunnel!

I am SO close to finishing Pat’s robe/smoking jacket. So close, I swear I can almost taste it.

Actually I would be done if I hadn’t had to take out the hem and redo it. I’m not quite sure how it got to be too long. I may have cut it longer on purpose since Pat is so tall, but honestly its been so long since I cut the pattern pieces that I don’t really remember. But either way the coat portion was too long to fit properly into the band that goes over the front opening to make it look all nice and polished. I finally got that all redone and pinned the last bit of sewing in place. Let’s hope everything is even. I’ve been too afraid to check today.
I did check on the sleeves and pockets last night, though. They are even and it was all well and good until my neighbor came to the door. I’m so unaccustomed to having anyone knock on my door I rushed over, forgetting I was still wearing that god awful black silk monstrosity. Please just picture 5-foot-2-inch me answering the door in an unfinished black silk robe made for my 6-foot-8-inch boyfriend. Needless to say I’m not expecting that neighbor to drop by again anytime soon.

Here are some photos of the robe in progress. As you can see it’s quite large (and rather unwieldy to work with). The second photo shows off the pattern in the fabric better. It’s not really that silver color-that’s just the flash.

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The pattern:
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I also wanted to share something I made for dinner tonight: rutabaga fries! I’ve recently fallen in love with the rutabaga and have been looking for different ways to prepare it. Since they are so similar to potatoes (except a little sweeter and way lower in carbs!) I thought the fry application would work well and it did! I sliced them on a mandolin-like tool from Walmart to ensure they were all about the same size and would cook about evenly. Then I just tossed them with a little safflower oil (you can use olive, of course), salt and cayenne pepper. I laid them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and popped them in the oven at 425 until they browned on the edges. Delicious!

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Speaking of cooking, I did not receive any feedback on my request for a chili recipe (I don’t think I have the followers yet) so I think I’m going to go with a chicken and white bean chili. I don’t know that it will be a huge winner, but it should at least be something different.ill share the recipe soon!

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Wanted: knock-their-socks-off chili recipe

I know we’ve just met so excuse me if this is too forward, but I need your help fellow bloggers. Next Friday, my office is having a chili cook-off. Now, I’ve never made chili but I would certainly like to try it.

Do you have any good chili recipes I could try? There are so many different types… What are your favorites?

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Wings, chins and smoking jackets… Just another night.

So tonight I made another recipe adapted from Claire Thomas. It’s basically just smothering chicken drummettes in teriyaki sauce and sticking them in the oven for 45 minutes at 425. Her instructions said to pop them up the broiler for the last few minutes to crisp up the skin. I think I should have set it on “lo” instead of “hi” since they burnt a little before getting all the way crisped. I used Kikkoman brand teriyaki – not bad!

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I also made a rice adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe for “lime-scented rice.” Basically you cook rice in chicken stock instead of water and add in a healthy pinch of fresh lime zest. I only had fresh lemon on hand so I used that instead in brown rice. I absolutely love lemon anything so I thought it turned out great! I just sliced up some fresh spinach leaves and tossed them in at the end. All in all the whole thing turned out to be a pretty, flavorful and surprisingly filling dinner!

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Now on to a portion of the blog I have thus far neglected: the sewing! I was so exhausted after staying up too late last night and getting up early to tutor this morning so I skipped the gym to just come home and sew, cook and hang out with Francis!

The light of my life:

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I let him run around in his giant hamster ball while I sew. That way I feel like he’s still out of the cage having fun and I’m not neglecting him, without having to keep a constant eye on him or worry about him chewing on my fabric (chinchillas chew on EVERYTHING).

So my current project, which I have been dragging on for WAY too long, is a “smoking jacket” as commissioned by Pat. It’s made of this pain-in-the-behind black silky fabric that needs to have every seam double-stitched because I’m afraid it’ll fray and fall apart. I know this is a real possibility because I had to remake the belt loops about 7 times before I made them wide enough and stitched the seams enough times that they didn’t come apart when I turned them right side out. I’m finally almost done! I’m planning on having the sides all sewn together before I go to bed tonight (God help me) and then all that will be left is hemming. And the monogrammed pocket that Pat has requested I add (not part of the pattern). We’ll see about that though. At this point, I feel like he’s pushing both my abilities and my patience 🙂

My goal though, and hopefully this blog and any readers will help hold me to this, is to have it finished by the time he gets back from Spring Break. That is exactly one week from tomorrow. I’ve spoken the deadline aloud, or more accurately put it in writing, so now it has to happen. I am, after all, a journalist. I’m nothing if I can meet a deadline, right?

The pattern I’m using is Simplicity 9330 (A). I’ll post pictures of the jacket soon! Then I can move on to the pile of other projects I have waiting – including a Cynthia Rowley skirt and a Burda dress. Very excited for both!

Does that happen to anyone else? You get stuck on one project that seems to take forever and before you even finish your mind is looking forward to the next one? I’m new to sewing but I hope this isn’t how all future projects go… I’m thinking the particulars of this one are just making it too frustrating to really enjoy. I don’t remember feeling this way during the other things I’ve sewn. If anyone has tips to stay on task during a frustrating project, please share!

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The moistest (and most delicious) brownies ever.

I’m not even sure if “moistest” is really a word, but either way it is appropriate here.

While finally spending a weekend home alone recently, I got plenty of time to learn just how awful weekend TV is when all you have is the moist basic cable Brighthouse offers. Truly, awful.

I quickly discovered that the only thing at all worth watching is a few random cooking shows (no Food Network here) and was lucky enough to catch this brownie recipe on an episode of “Food for Thought” with Claire Thomas. After some searching I was able to find her blog The Kitchy Kitchen and the following recipe. I forgot to take photos – hey, I’m still a blogging novice – but Claire’s blog has tons of gorgeous ones that would have put my to shame anyway.

Brown Butter Walnut Brownies

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Ingredients

3 ½ oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa and up)
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 eggs, at room temp
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, loose, not packed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coffee, cold
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, halved and toasted lightly

Preheat oven to 350 and pop in the walnuts until just toasted, about 5 minutes. Sift together the flour, spices, and cocoa powder. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water, add the coffee and stir to combine, then let cool. In a small saucepan, melt the unsalted butter until browned, and add to the melted chocolate. Beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and shiny. Continue beating on low while adding flour mixture and wet ingredients alternatively. Finish with the vanilla. Do not over mix. Fold in the chips. Pour into a buttered and floured 9 x 13 pan and sprinkle the walnuts on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Okay, a few deviations I made:

1) I did not include the walnuts. Pat doesn’t like nuts and neither do half of the people I work with. I have to pawn these off on other people, namely my coworkers, or else I’d eat them all myself. I’ve found that eating an entire pan of brownies is really self-defeating when it comes to one of the other thirds of my blogs… the whole working out/being healthy/getting in shape part.

2) The dark chocolate I used was only 60% cocoa because, again, the boyfriend doesn’t like dark chocolate. (Funny now, but not funny at the time, side note: He still hated them.)

3) I used an entire bag of semi-sweet chips instead of just one cup, because honestly can there be too many chocolate chips in anything? I think not.

Thoughts:

1) SO MOIST! Seriously, they are so moist. I made them last night, and they haven’t dried out at all. So fudgy.

2) If you don’t like dark chocolate, you will not like these. Is doesn’t matter how much sugar or anything else you put in them, they still taste like dark chocolate. That’s a great thing in my book but not so much for some others. Again, boyfriend hated them. One coworker commented “Wow, they’re really… cocoa-ey.” She did not go back for seconds.

3) You can really taste the cinnamon, and to a lesser extent the cayenne pepper. I thought it was a nice little twist… one of those “There’s something different about these that I just can’t put my finger on” type things.

4) The chocolate chips sunk. I may try tossing them with flour before I mix them in next time – I’ve heard that helps.

Conclusions:

I will definitely make this recipe again. I will probably use stronger coffee (I used a pretty weak French Vanilla variety this time around). I may try and make them with milk chocolate for Pat. I think they could still be good that way.

I wish I hadn’t made them on such a stressful day… it made it much easier to give in to temptation. As much as I love my job, the pressure can definitely rise out of nowhere. I’m still getting used to coming in expecting to do one thing and having a curve ball tossed my way first thing. Today and yesterday were those kinds of days. For example: yesterday I started my morning at a legislative breakfast (at 7:30 a.m., woof!) and came in to the office only to find out that I would not be writing a story about the issues our local legislators were currently pursuing, but instead about a high school sophomore who died unexpectedly. Today, I thought I’d be writing a story about the state’s apple crop which is in a particularly precarious spot right now but instead I went to Applebee’s and watched the Colts’ news conference releasing Peyton Manning and spent the afternoon mourning with fans.

Everyday is a little bit different and that’s what I love about it.

Now, it is way past my bedtime – I have ReadUp in the a.m., meaning I have to be in Greenfield by 7:30. Easier said than done, blogosphere.

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