Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Birthday to you know who...and MOCHA BROWNIES

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." - C.S. Lewis
Today is a monumental day indeed.

My bestest friend turns the big 3-0!  I don't know about her, but I sure am freaking out over here! When did we suddenly become old and adults?  Seems like yesterday we were teenagers trying to survive high school.

I remember the day God decided that we should be friends in 11th grade.  We were classmates at a tiny school  - and had not gotten off on a good foot.  We hung out with different groups of people, and never really talked to each other.  All of a sudden she had all these bad things happen in her life - she was in a skiing accident and on crutches, and then some of her friends passed away unexpectedly.  My heart broke for her and I wanted desperately to do something to help take away some of the sadness.  So I did the only sensible thing - I made her a card with a giant ostrich on it.  I don't remember what the card said - but it worked.  We have been friends ever since!

"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship." - St. Thomas Aquinas
After high school we went to college together and then became roommates my Senior/her Junior year.  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding, and if I get married one day she too will be in my wedding. I am Godmother to her eldest son, and if I have kids one day she will be Godmother to one of my kids.

When bad things happen - I want to call her and hear her good advice and be reassured of God's love for me.  When good things happen - I want to call her and tell her every single detail.

I don't know what the standard rule is for how long you have to be friends with someone before they become family - but she has most definitely passed that mark and is now a sister.

She is a gift to all those around her.  She is a incredible wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, and all around a very impressive human being.  I am very blessed by her friendship.

Life is so much more enjoyable when you have people like her in it.  She knows me, and I know her. I know her back stories, she knows mine.  I know her awesome family (especially her incredible parents), and she knows mine.  We encourage each other to live our Faith, and to love the people around us.

I don't know what I did to deserve a friend as wonderful as her, but I am eternally grateful!  If you are reading this please be sure to offer up a prayer for her today!

One of the things we share a common love for is all things chocolate!  She makes incredible truffles, homemade mocha's, and chocolate chip cookies.  No joke, one time I visited her I think I consumed 1/2 my body weight in cookie dough - yes, it is that good!  I sent her these brownies for her birthday, and I will eat one here in Texas for her while she eats one in Virginia.  I look forward to the many years ahead we will share together as friends eating pounds and pounds of chocolate together. : )

adapted from Ina Garten's Outrageaous Brownie recipe
1 pound unsalted butter (This is 4 sticks FYI)
24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (about 4 cups, or 2 bags)
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules or super finely ground coffee
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional - I don't put them in, but if I did I would probably toast them first)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 12x18x1 inch baking sheet. (if you don't have a pan this size you can also use 2-13x9 pans - they will just be a little thinner)  Melt together the butter, one pound of the chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and rest of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.  Spread evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and dough. Bake for another 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake!
Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into squares.
Ina’s notes: Flouring the chips and walnuts keeps them from sinking to the bottom.
It is very important to allow the batter to cool well before adding the chips, or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.
Do ahead: This recipe can be baked up to a week in advance, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated.

May you all be as fortunate in friendship as I have been, and if you aren't - I was once told that in order to find a good friend you have to first be a good friend. : )    So make these brownies, sit down and share them with an old friend - or go find a new one...and as always,


ps. remember this song? : )

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Hair on my head AND "Clean" Banana bread

Does your hair define you?  I mean when people are describing you to other people do they typically start with your hair type and color?  Have you seen my hair?  Not only does it define engulfs me.  I think it was very appropriate that God gave me the hair that is on my head...I am definitely not a person who would look natural in straight hair.  My hair is crazy!  It is curly, it is frizzy, it is poofy, and it is insane!  There really are no other words to describe it.  I used to be jealous of straight haired people, their lives seemed so organized and put together.  Every hair in place, in a nice even pattern...just like their lives.  Then I look at my car, my bedroom, and my kitchen and realize that if I had straight hair it would still find a way to rebel against me and become curly.  Like for realz yo, it is off the hook and has a mind of its own.

I recently cut off 7 inches of hair, and I swear 1/2" has already grown back in less then 2 weeks!When the hair stylist was lost in the jungle of my hair she kept commenting on how it was never ending...she thought she had already cut that piece off...and it was already back!  I swear I am distantly related to if only Zachary Levi would be my prince.  (Tangled movie reference: ) )

I realize that hair is not a good segue into food, but I just felt compelled to discuss it since it has been particularly fluffy in our current humid state.

Have you ever been served a dish of food only to look down and find a strand of hair?  Of course you happens all the time!  When I was in 7th grade my family and I (really meaning me) decided to bring a little bit of our Southern tradition to the East Coast school we were attending and make some Mardi Gras cakes.  I worked extra hard and made about 4 cakes to share with the small student body of about 60 students.  I was in the middle of dishing out the cake when a Senior boy...who was "THE" Senior guy that every girl had a crush on came up to me to thank me for the cake...then he pulled out a long blond curly piece of hair that was embedded into the cake and said "I think this belongs to you."  How humiliating!!!!  From that day on I always make it a point to be extra vigilant about NOT letting my crazy hair find a way into my food.  To make a long story short, that moment ended all chances of me marrying Mr. watch out where your stray hairs may fall, they may alter the course of your life in ways you never expected.

Now that I have thoroughly turned you off to the idea of food, let me share with you a recipe.  This is a recipe for Banana Bread made without oil/butter or sugar...instead it is made with applesauce and honey.  Now if you are expecting this bread to taste like your normal everyday sugar and oil filled banana bread - you will be disappointing   Instead this bread tastes like sweetened bananas.  It is much drier than your typical banana bread, but still very tasty.  I usually toast mine and slather on some natural jam, cream cheese, or butter.  The more I ate of the loaf the more I liked it.  If you are also gluten free - I imagine you can also swap out the flour for a gluten free alternative - I haven't tried this, but it seems like it would be fine.

Clean Banana Bread
adapted from a Pinterest recipe

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce (I used homemade applesauce)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 mashed overripe bananas

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce and honey. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Keep your New Year's resolutions to be healthy, make this bread, listen to this song and dance to it, and of course - eat your heart out!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Salty Dogs...and Christmas at our home

I realize most of you are trying to detox from things like am I...but keep this recipe in mind for when you do start baking again!  I vow to post some healthy recipes soon - of course you all know how good I am at keeping my promises. : )

The gang playing Bananagrams Christmas Eve

TRAGIC news from my standing mixer died...just in time for the New Year's resolutions to be healthier - perfect timing, don't you think?  I really am quite sad to kiss this mixer of 6 years goodbye.  It has served me well, and I have no complaints - always recommend it, and am going to buy another one, just in a bigger size and brighter color. : )  KITCHENAID FOREVER!  I was wondering why I couldn't decide on a present that I wanted my parents to give me...and then this happened - so perfect timing all around!  I am stalling on buying a new mixer only because choosing the right color mixer is more taxing than buying a new car!  If you are a guy don't judge me, a girl and her mixer have a special bond you will never understand. : )

Color coordinated sisters - totally unintentional!!!

Now let me tell you about these bars.  As you all know by now the cooking gene skipped my Mom, but thankfully it made it into some of my aunts. : )  Every year we would get a tin of cookies from my Aunt in Louisiana, and every year I quickly picked all of these cookies out of the tin and would run and hide.  They are so deliciously sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, lovely and wonderful!  They also happen to be really easy and quick to make.  I didn't get this recipe from my Aunt, but found it somewhere else on the is delicious, but hers is even better!  This is a great bar cookie to make and freeze for later.  They also ship fairly well if packaged correctly.  Why they are called "Salty Dogs" you may ask?  I know not the reason.  When I hear the term "Salty dog"  I imagine a big hairy dog, wearing a yellow raincoat, aboard an old weather beaten boat, and smoking a pipe.  These bars do not in anyway relate to that scenario. : )

                                                                                             Does she look like a "Salty Dog"?

Do you have friends and family that bring you the same cookies every year?  How awesome are they?  What is your favorite one?  Another one we always get is German Chocolate Brownies - also one I need to post a recipe for.

Salty Dogs
Adapted from the Land O'lakes website


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 TBS butter
1 TBS water
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I used lightly salted, but you can use fully salted or unsalted if you can also use any combination of nuts you like - all pecan, all peanut, all cashew, etc...)

Preheat oven to 350°F.Spray 13x9-inch baking pan, line with parchment paper.

Combine all crust ingredients in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press crumb mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place all topping ingredients except mixed nuts in medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth (5 to 7 minutes). Stir in nuts until well coated. 

Spread mixture evenly over hot, partially baked crust. Continue baking for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely. Lift bars out of pan and cut into bars.

I was sick most of Christmas break, so this is how much I helped with the cooking and baking day of...

I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Christmas and New Year's with your loved ones!
Eat your heart out!