MY NEW FAVORITE BROWNIE RECIPE.

img_9825If you couldn’t tell yet, I’m a huge fan of traditions. Weekly rituals that provide stability and comfort to my family, and they mostly revolve around food. I remember these kinds of traditions growing up myself and I want my kids to have the same feelings when the look back on their own childhoods. 

In that vein – we’re starting a new tradition this year: Sunday Supper. We’re making a big cozy, shareable family meal like we always do on Sundays – think Shepherd’s Pie, Spaghetti, a big pot of soup with crusty bread – but inviting someone or several someones to come join us for an early dinner. It just seems like a really nice thing to start doing. We had our first Sunday Supper this past weekend, inviting over some friends that haven’t seen our new house yet. Mike made a gigantic batch of spaghetti, we joined forces to make a green salad, garlic bread, and I made the most amazing brownies for dessert. Our friends raved over them, texting later that they were still dreaming about the brownies. 

I much prefer to bake from scratch than from a box, but even I have to admit that boxed brownies are amazing. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to bake things from the ground up. These brownies are worth every speck of extra effort expended. I googled “best brownies”, and after reading about 10 of the some 9000 (!) rave reviews on AllRecipes, it was settled. These were the brownies I would be making for Sunday Supper. I adjusted a few things, and have reflected the changes in my recipe – such as doubling the whole recipe, and a few changes in the frosting. But if you would like the pure unadulterated original, just click here for Angie’s original, much smaller batch recipe. 

I know I’ll be making these again for Sunday Supper in the not too distant future, and I know that these are the brownies that my boys are going to remember that their mom made when they were growing up.   

Best Brownies
Adapted from this recipe. 

For the Brownies:
What you need: 

– 1 cup butter
– 2 cups white sugar
– 4 eggs, beaten
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the Frosting
What you need:

– 3 tablespoons butter, softened
– 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tablespoon maple syrup
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
– 2 tablespoons milk

What to do: 

+ Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

+ Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan.

+ In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat

+ Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla. 

+ Add cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder until no dry bits are left. Mix with a wooden spoon so as to not overmix the batter. 

+ Spread batter into prepared pan.

+ Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To Make Frosting:

+ Combine softened butter, cocoa, maple syrup, vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and milk. Stir until silky smooth.

+ Frost brownies while they are still warm.

Enjoy for the brief moments that they last before they’re all gobbled up!

LITTLE THINGS THIS WEEK.

  1. this afternoon tea ritual…because decompression after school is a necessity, especially this week.
  2. this sourdough starter…because it’s been 9 days and i’m still at it, resolutions and all that.
  3. this book…because while i’ve already started another, i’m still living in that world.
  4. this chair & the five other just like it…a project completed and enjoyed every single day {details forthcoming}.
  5. this toy cell phone…for jingling suddenly at school and making me laugh and laugh.

This week was long and I felt like I couldn’t see the end of it while we were in it. But now we’re here and I’m having a glass of wine and it’s glorious and I’m happy as I ever was. Have a wonderful weekend friends!

OUR WEEK AT A GLANCE. {vol. 7}

img_5256ONE MORE WEEK! Five days. That’s it! That’s practically nothing. We can do this. Five little days stand between me and two whole weeks off with my boys at home. Lots of holiday events happening this week. The school concert, Charlie’s class party, Charlie’s school performance, school parties at my school. etc. etc. It’s going to go by soooo fast.

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As for meals, Mike made meat sauce tonight for spaghetti tomorrow night, so that’s super easy. He never uses a recipe, just wings it and does it by muscle memory and tasting along the way. It’s the best. We switched over to ground turkey years ago, and haven’t looked by, but he does throw in a link of italian sausage for seasoning. Tuesday is BLTs. I got sourdough bread to toast, Hellman’s mayo, thick bacon, beefsteak tomatoes, and a head of iceberg lettuce. One of my favorite meals. I always do the bacon in the oven instead of the stove. If you aren’t doing it that way, you need to switch. asap. Set your oven to 400, line a cookie sheet with foil, and bake for about 15 minutes, checking frequently. Transfer to paper towels as normal. Wednesday, I’m trying a new recipe for Tuscan White Bean Soup from No Spoon Necessary. Thursday – leftovers, always, and Pizza Friday is basically a weekly holiday for us. I made Cranberry Walnut Bread this weekend too. I’m going to share the recipe this weekend! Such a good holiday loaf.

Many things remain on my to do list this week. You get just a little taste here. There is much, much more not shown. Mike’s parents arrive on Sunday, so we’re trying to get things together for them to visit, and to make sure Santa visits our house on time next week! Can you believe it’s only ten days until Christmas? It really crept up on me. This weekend was lovely though. Charlie started saying one of my favorite phases on repeat -“oh gosh” (hilarious) and has taken to calling for us by saying “honey!” in the exact tone that Mike and I use call to each other. Ben is so into everything, laughs every time Charlie laughs, and is only getting faster at crawling (lots of “oh gosh” for that).

Also this weekend – after much hunting, we finally got a chair for our bedroom reading nook. Remember when I was looking for all my favorites? We got none of those, and wound up with something that’s even more perfect. We also made it to the Christmas village today at our church and all I can say is wow. They really went all out. There was even SNOW! I think I was more excited than Charlie.

I hope your weekend was lovely too! I’ve got a couple good little posts planned for this week, so I hope you come back by to see!

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LITTLE THINGS THIS WEEK.

1. this santa garland…img_4921and the little boy who shouts ‘santa! santa!’ every time he sees it.

2. these chunky crayons…img_5026for being easy to wipe of tables, chairs, but not quite so easily off of walls. {i swear, you look away for ten seconds and that’s all it takes!}

3. this tiny salad dressing jar…img_5146because it makes salads at lunch a whole lot cuter.

4. this christmas card…img_4935for being delayed and then suddenly, unexpectedly ready for pick up!

5. these enchiladas and jar of beer…img_4897for being just the thing to soothe my soul.

in other news:

only five more days until i have two whole weeks off with my loves. there’s a mile long list of things to do before mike’s parents arrive next sunday, so we’re going to try to cross somethings off this weekend. a holiday party with friends on saturday, and then the christmas village at our church on sunday is going to make for a busy little weekend. i’m going to fit in some baking of cranberry bread, some granola bars for the week, some serious boy snuggles and we are going to clean, clean, clean the house from top to bottom. it’s going to be a good one, you guys.

THE VERY BEST GRANOLA RECIPE.

img_4633On school days, our morning are, in an understatement, hectic. As much as I try to prepare at night for the next day, there’s only so much you can do. Diaper changes, bottles, long snuggles, teeth brushing, throwing things into lunchboxes, turning on the crockpot, not to mention getting ready myself. These are the days though. I live for those morning snuggles before school, at the cost of eating breakfast myself. With the gift of forethought this weekend, I made my very favorite granola, cooking it low and slow this past Saturday in the oven while the boys took turns napping and pulling every toy off the shelves in the playroom. I’ve gotten in the habit of tucking a little jar of granola with yogurt into my lunchbox to eat when I get to school in that blissful half hour before students arrive at the library for my first class. 

Mornings are tinged at this time of year (in south florida!) with a cool breeze and it’s just the best time of year to make granola. I’m sure it’s an even better time for it in the cold and wintry north. Let’s be honest, who wants to leave their oven on for an hour during any other time of year? I’ve tried many recipes for granola over the years, and this is the one scrawled on an index card, but nearly memorized. It’s adapted from Alton Brown, and it’s just my favorite. This isn’t just any granola, but a hearty and satisfying mix that’s not too sweet (the failing of most granola), a little bit salty with a nice crunch that pairs perfectly with a bit of plain greek yogurt. It is, of course, highly adaptable. Choose your favorite dried fruit, variety of nut, extra mix ins. 

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Granola
adapted from Alton Brown

What you need:

– 3 cups oats
– 1 cup mixed nuts, chopped (this mix is my favorite from aldi)
– 3/4 cup shredded coconut, sweet or regular
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar
– 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp maple syrup
– 1/4 cup neutral oil (I use canola)
– 1 cup dried fruit (this is my favorite)

What to do: 

+ Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

+ Mix oats, nuts, coconut, salt, and brown sugar in a large oven-safe dutch oven, or baking dish.

+ In a small bowl, stir together syrup and oil.

+ Pour oil and sugar over oat mixture and stir to combine.

+ Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

+ Let cool, then mix in dried fruit.

+ Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.

+ Enjoy over yogurt or milk!

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Do you eat breakfast? I’ve gone through phases this year of breakfasting and not, and I’m in a decidedly breakfasting phase.

OUR WEEK AT A GLANCE. {vol. 6}

img_4689Mike’s cleaning the laundry room. He cleaned the garage earlier today while I took the boys to the park, and I knew he has his eyes set on some cabinets and drawers next. He’s going through a real moment of tidying things up before his parents visit in a couple weeks. I hope it sticks because I could get used to this. I’m lounging on the couch next to the Christmas tree, The Holiday (one of my favorite Christmas movies!) on in the background while I look at the overview of our week and finish up my Christmas card order. My Sunday bedtime is quickly approaching, so let’s take a look at our week. week at a glanceHamburger pie is on the menu for tomorrow night – ground turkey, salt, pepper, ketchup (a good squeeze – maybe 1/4 cup?), 1 can each of diced tomato, green beans and corn. Mix it up, and top with creamy mashed potatoes and then cheddar cheese on top of that. One of our favorites in the winter. Taco Tuesday this week is chicken enchiladas. I’ll do the chicken just with salt and pepper in the crock pot to make it easy. Monterrey jack cheese to fill with, and I use canned enchilada sauce these busy days. Extra crock pot chicken from Tuesday’s enchiladas will be for the stir fry on Wednesday. Broccoli, onion, carrot, and pea pods with rice. I usually wing the stir fry sauce – soy sauce, garlic, a little brown sugar. Thursdays are for leftovers, and Pizza is our Friday tradition. I made granola for a better breakfast, and I have sugar cookies on the plan for Friday.

Not too many other extras this week. Mike doesn’t have any events, so we’ll have him to ourselves on nights, thank goodness, and for me it’s all just getting ourselves to Christmas break in two more weeks!! I’ve planned a couple running days and yoga. I have a few more Christmas to do’s, but our tree looks beautiful and it’s starting to feel more like the holidays around here. On Saturday we went to our town’s Christmas tree lighting – they had fireworks! It was so very exciting!

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TO BAKE: CHERRY BERRY BARS

I often, especially at that hour after my students leave, but can’t yet leave school to pick up my own little loves, find myself in need of something to munch on. I’ve gone through phases of handfuls of pretzels, tupperware-d muffins, little jars of plain yogurt with granola, tins of chex mix, baggies of graham crackers, or a simple, not overly sweet cake wrapped up in a napkin and tucked in my lunch box to enjoy with a steaming mug of peppermint tea in the afternoon.

But a couple weeks ago, it was after the boys had gone to bed, and I had in my mind these date bars that are a bit of a tradition for me to bake pre-anywhere travel. It had been a long school day, I had been making lists all week of things that needed to be remembered and packed before our trip. I typically double Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to fit in my 9×9 square baking pan, and to make more of a thick breakfast bar than the single recipe makes.

As you can probably see where I’m going where this, a few things went awry in my dark of night cooking. I was doubling all the ingredients in my head (always write them down. always!). I also didn’t have exactly all of the ingredients that the recipe called for – dried cherries rather than dates, frozen fruit to make up the difference, regular granulated sugar instead of raw, ginger instead of cloves, and the use of a whole cup instead of a half measuring cup. A few changes and mistakes that led to the greatness of a crumbly but chewy, sweet but tangy, sweet but also a little salt to take the edge off, homemade granola bar. The perfect after- school, or afternoon treat to enjoy with a hot cozy drink in a mug.

Homemade Cherry-Berry Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the filling:

What you need: 

5 ounces dried cherries
1 cup frozen (or fresh) mixed berries
1/2 cup water

What to do: 

+ Combine cherries, berries and water in a small saucepan.

+ Simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the liquid has absorbed and begun to thicken.

+ Set aside while you make the dough.

For the dough:

What you need: 

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cups oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned, plus another 1/4 cup for topping
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

What to do: 

+ Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease sides and bottom of a 9×9 baking pan.

+ In a large mixing bowl, or in a Kitchenaid mixer, combine the sugars and oil. Add the flour, 1/2 cup of the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. The mixture will be the consistency of a cookie dough.

+ Press about 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of your baking pan. Spread your filling on top.

+ To the remaining 1/4 of the dough, add 1/4 cup of oats and mix together. Sprinkle this on top of the fruit filling and press lightly to cover.

+ Bake for 30 minutes or until light brown at the edges. Cut into squares after cooled. Store at room temperature if eating soon, refrigerator for about a week, or freezer for longer.

OUR WEEK AT A GLANCE. {vol. 5}

img_0371We’re home after a whirlwind of a week in Indiana. Our parents’ houses were both packed with food, family, laughter and wine which is just how we like it. Days passed by in that busy mode of doing everything and nothing all at the same time. A walk down the street felt like  true achievement. Now that we’re home, we’re in vacation recovery mode, practically buried under piles of laundry and half empty bags with fingers crossed that our house doesn’t succumb to the flu bug that’s been going around the rest of the family.

week at a glance

This week looks to be pretty quiet. I’d like to get the Christmas decorations out, but have low expectations of getting anything up. The weather was so beautiful today that I took the boys to the park after school. Dinner, we pulled out that half gallon of mommy soup from a few weeks back and just had to heat it up and make a few peanut butter sandwiches to go with. Taco Tuesday follows, then sheet pan chicken with broccoli and potatoes on Wednesday. Thursday is a night without Mike, so I’ll heat up tacos for Charlie and I, and then Friday is, of course, pizza night. I also pulled out some frozen pumpkin muffins that I made a few weeks ago, there’s cheesecake ice cream in the freezer and Mike’s making popcorn for our snack tonight as we speak, and hot chocolate is in the pantry for another night, so those are some treats to look forward to this week.

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I’m hoping to get a couple runs (honestly, walk/runs) in during the week and then one night of yoga (I’ve been so stiff lately!), and this weekend we’ll get another couple runs in together if the boys allow it. Other than that, I started a new book today from school, and I can already tell it’s going to be so cute. We’ve got a hallmark Christmas movie on, and it’s supposed to get down into the 40’s tonight! Brr! We put the boys to bed in their flannels, and sweatshirts and long pants are laid out for the morning. I can’t wait to hear Charlie say “Brrrrr. Told.”

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OUR WEEK AT A GLANCE. {vol. 3}

img_3130The final week. The week before Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s here. This weekend was such a sweet one. The boys are feeling better, everyone was well enough for outings, playtime, normal sleep and mealtimes. We tried out a local diner for breakfast on Saturday and it did not disappoint. Disney+ was also on high usage during Ben’s nap times for Charlie (need to keep him quiet so Ben can sleep!). Charlie was kind of scared during Aladdin and loved The Jungle Book. He was giggling SO hard. Hilarious. Anyway our weekend has come to a close and, we fly out next Saturday evening, so our whole week revolves around getting ready to go home to Indiana!week at a glance-2I was out of school almost all last week with Ben (who has RSV), so I’m looking forward to having a “regular” week with all my classes and really getting some good library activities in there, and making sure that all my students have a book to read over Thanksgiving break! img_3213We’re keeping it simple this week for meals. Mike made a giant batch of “Mommy Soup” (beef stew with barley) today. It’s finally in the 60’s here! Soup weather! We had it for dinner tonight with sourdough toast. We’ll have it for one other dinner this week, and we put a full half gallon mason jar in the freezer for another meal in a couple weeks. We’re having meatloaf tomorrow from the freezer that I had made a few weeks ago. Love doing big batches of meals and freezing for meals later in the month when I don’t have time (or energy!) to cook at the end of a long day. img_3138When we go on trips (especially weeklong trips) we like to empty out the fridge as much as we possibly can. No one likes to come home to slimy veggies, or moldy leftovers. Yuck. So we’re just going to demolish everything in there. I have two nights of leftovers planned this week. Luckily, our kids are young enough that they can’t complain about leftovers! img_2896I’m also planning to make these date bars that I make every time we travel. I just feel so irrationally smug about having a homemade something in my bag instead of buying a ten dollar cookie from a store at the airport. img_3038I started re-doing the boys bathroom last week, and made lots of progress this weekend too. It’s my goal to get it done before we leave. I just have a little bit of sanding, a last coat of paint, and then put up the floating shelves and a new mirror. Easy peasy, right? Hehe.

TO BAKE: CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES.

img_2535Chocolate chip cookies are a little bit of a hobby of mine. I try recipes, decide they’re the best, then see another one I want to try, and decide its the best, and so on and so forth until eternity. I had some extra time yesterday while home with my sicky baby Ben, so of course, the urge for a cookie set in. I had, in times past, decided the recipe on the bag of chocolate chips was the best, but then I thought this was the best recipe, then I switched to this one for a little bit (lard! so good!), but yesterday, I cracked open my Betty Crocker and her Chocolate Chip cookie may be my new favorite. Soft! Crisp edges! Chewy! Crinkly! No extra steps! What’s not to love?img_2543Recipe from Betty Crocker

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

Instructions: 

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugars, butter, vanilla and egg in a mixer with the paddle attachment.
  3. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gently stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
  5. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoon about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Cool for 1-2 minutes then move to cooling racks to cool completely.

Some notes:

  • I like to only bake a few for us to eat, and then I freeze the rest of the dough in rounded tablespoons on a cookie sheet and transfer to ziplock bag. Store in the freezer until ready to bake. Add on a minute or two of cooking time if cooking from frozen.
  • This is my favorite cookie sheet. 
  • I like to cool on foil. I think it keeps the cookies chewier than if cooled on a rack.

Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie? It’s almost time to look at Christmas cookies!!! I’ve already got my eye on a few that I want to try this year!

img_2560In other news – I’m still home with this sweet boy, but back to work tomorrow and Mike’s staying home with him. Soaking up these moments!