Foodie Friday – Dark chocolate brownies (revisited)

First of all, I must apologize for neglecting my webpage. Again. I’ve been working on a few posts, but I just haven’t been able to finish any of them. Traditionally there’s a lull in posts in the summer and it seems this year is no different. It’s a lame excuse, I know, and I’m working on rectifying the situation. But for now, check out these amazing dark chocolate brownies!

It took about four iterations, but I finally perfected this dark chocolate brownie recipe. I posted the original recipe last fall (check it out here), but I knew there was room for improvement. So I increased the amount of every ingredient except the eggs, which I reduced. And the result was incredible. These brownies are really dark. Both in the sense of the chocolate flavor and the actual color. Does anyone else sneeze when they eat really dark chocolate? No? Well, it might just be me, but these brownies sometimes make me sneeze. That’s how chocolatey they are. Everyone who tried these brownies loved them, including me. I had to share them with my co-workers because I could have eaten all of them myself. So if you’re looking for a brownie recipe with more chocolate flavor than you could ever imagine, give this one a try!

1 c (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 c Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1 c flour

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. You can use an electric mixer, but I usually just use a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat/stir until combined. Add the flour and cocoa powder and stir until just combined. Spread the dough into an 11×7″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. This makes for easy removal from the pan when the brownies are cool and less dishes to wash later. Bake at 350 deg F for 25-30 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Don’t overbake! Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Shugary Sweets’ Perfect Dark Chocolate Brownies.

Chocolate chip cookies #51

Chocolate chip cookies #51: Based on Amanda’s Cookin’s Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 4/2/15.

Happy Easter, everyone! I bought some buttermilk to make muffins this weekend (more on that in another post), but for some reason there’s no way to buy less than a quart of buttermilk at the grocery store. What the heck? Even my largest cake recipe doesn’t use more than one cup! No matter how many muffins I made I knew I’d have leftover buttermilk, so I figured I’d better find some other ways to use the extra. Then I remembered that a long time ago I found a recipe for buttermilk chocolate chip cookies on Pinterest. It was the perfect fit! Granted, the recipe didn’t use a lot of buttermilk, but any way to make use of it was good. I hadn’t made any chocolate chip cookies since October so I was eager to get back in the kitchen and try something new. Unfortunately something about these wasn’t quite right. Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but I think the buttermilk made the texture more like cake than cookies. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. The cookies might have been better with a different mix-in besides chocolate chips. I’m glad I tried the recipe, but I’ll save the buttermilk for something other than cookies next time!

The Imitation Game

Tonight I celebrated Valentine’s Day in a somewhat unorthodox manner by going to see “The Imitation Game.” Strangely, it’s actually the first of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees that I’ve seen in the theater. I realize I’m way behind where I was this time last year, but I’ve got plans to see a few more of the Oscar nominated movies before next weekend. But anyway, I figured “The Imitation Game” was one of the most anti-Valentine’s Day film offerings, and therefore perfect for the evening’s entertainment. And it was amazing. It excited my mind. I’m going to say something a little crass, but for an engineer like me “The Imitation Game” was like porn. It lit up parts of my brain that are dormant a majority of the time. Those neural pathways usually only kick in to gear when major problems present themselves at work. I have a little bit of experience tackling crazy problems, sometimes even under very restrictive time constraints. Nothing like the elaborate encryptions that Alan Turing’s team was struggling with, but I think I have some idea of their work process. And I’m in awe of it. Based on my admittedly short career in the aerospace industry, I know what it’s like to work with a limited set of tools to try and solve a complex puzzle. It’s like trying to perform surgery with a spoon. You learn to be creative in ways your college courses didn’t even begin to teach you. You invent new paradigms when you have to. Learning on the job becomes trial by fire sometimes. It’s a humbling experience and it makes me realize just how amazing an achievement it was to break the WWII codes. While watching the movie I started thinking about how I might start attacking something like Enigma. My brain doesn’t work on anywhere near the level of the folks depicted in “The Imitation Game,” but I probably could come up with a rough framework for where to start. I’m no mathematician, but that didn’t keep me from comprehending the remarkable work of Alan Turing and his colleagues. I just hope my scientific brain helped me appreciate it a little more than the average viewer.

Belated Foodie Friday – Crockpot hot chocolate (take 2)

Also written on my flights from Long Beach to Orlando on Wednesday.

My last day of work in 2014 was the day of the annual holiday potluck. My favorite day of the year! This meant that I wasn’t very productive closing out the year, but at least I was well fed. It was awesome. Due to the craziness that was December I didn’t commit to making anything complicated for the potluck. In fact I was so unimaginative with my offerings that I simply repeated my menu from 2013 – hot chocolate for breakfast and mulled apple cider for lunch. Simple, tasty, and very little effort required on my part. Not too long ago I shared my first attempt at Crockpot hot chocolate, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with the results. My co-workers really liked it, but the chocolate chips didn’t melt properly so I knew there was a better option out there. And this year I found it! Look no further, this is the world’s best hot chocolate. It was so popular at the potluck that my co-workers drank every drop and several asked for the recipe. I didn’t even follow the exact directions in the original recipe because I was lazy and didn’t think it made a difference. Luckily I was right. I just dumped all of the ingredients in my slow cooker at 6 AM, heated the hot chocolate about 2.5 hours, and stirred it every 30 minutes or so. And it was perfect! Rich, creamy, and chocolately. I am definitely going to make this again soon!

1/2 gallon whole milk
1 pint heavy cream (I used whipping cream)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c cocoa powder (I used half regular, half Hershey’s Special Dark)
1/2 c sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Dash of salt

Add this to the list of easiest recipes of all time. Simply combine all of the ingredients in your slow cooker and whisk to combine. The cocoa powder won’t mix too well with the cold milk and cream, but that will change as it heats up. Cook on low for 2-3 hours, whisking/stirring occasionally. Serve with marshmallows. Enjoy!

Based on No. 2 Pencil’s Slow Cooker Hot Cocoa.

Christmas 2014

The first portion of this post was written while I was on my way back to California after Christmas (12/29), but never got around to finishing it. Typical! Better late than never, I guess!

Sorry for the unplanned blogging hiatus, I was so busy on my trip to Tallahassee for Christmas that I barely touched my laptop! I know that’s a pretty flimsy excuse for not updating my webpage, but I wanted to give a reason for my seemingly lazy behavior anyway. At the moment I’m sitting in the Dallas airport for my flight to LAX in about an hour. It was a whirlwind trip even though it was six days long. There’s always so much to do surrounding Christmas with shopping, cooking, and family traditions. But I had a wonderful time and a lovely Christmas with my parents despite the strong thunderstorms that accompanied my arrival (although my flight landed pretty easily in such horrible weather) and power outage when we got home from the airport. It’s a good thing my dad always has lots of flashlights! We went to sleep without power on the night of the 23rd. Luckily it was back on by the time we got up on Christmas Eve.

The remaining portion of this post was written today.

The rain wasn’t over yet, though. My parents and I waited out another line of thunderstorms that morning before heading to the mall to do some last minute Christmas shopping. That’s when I got my beloved red Toms which I’ve worn just about every day since then. Later than evening the weather had cleared up so we were able to go for our annual Christmas light viewing walk in the neighborhood. The rain had put a damper on some of the festivities, but it was still nice to admire the light displays. When we got home I hunkered down in front of the TV to watch “A Christmas Story” and wrap presents. You can’t wait any later than Christmas Eve for that! The next morning we made a delicious Christmas breakfast of buttermilk pancakes (thanks to this recipe from Martha Stewart), scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit. Yum! We exchanged presents after breakfast and then all three of us got some exercise. It was a little chilly, but I ran 5 miles around the neighborhood, my dad ran a different route, and my mom took a walk. We all ended up getting home at about the same time. Our next job was putting together Christmas dinner. We had smoked turkey, cranberry sauce (using my own recipe), sweet potato casserole, and skillet green beans (a recipe I need to post soon). It was the most traditional meal we’d made in years (I usually make lasagna for Christmas dinner) and it was scrumptious. After dinner we went to see “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on this one. I definitely didn’t love it, but I think I’ll have to go see it again before making up my mind. As soon as we got home from the movie we had dessert – my mom’s famous chocolate cake and pecan pie. It was the perfect way to end Christmas Day.

Foodie Friday – Homemade cranberry sauce

I’m working on a couple of posts about Christmas and New Year’s, but I’ve been busy this week so they aren’t ready for publishing yet. I’ll finish them this weekend. For now you’ll have to be content with this recipe for delicious homemade cranberry sauce!

On Christmas Eve I cobbled together a batch of cranberry sauce from a couple of basic recipes I found on Pinterest – one from Cooking Light and one from McCormick’s. I used elements of each one, but pretty much just threw a little bit of this and a little bit of that (including some ingredients that nether recipe called for) into the pot and hoped for the best. Fortunately it turned out great! It was the perfect complement to the smoked turkey we had for Christmas dinner, and the leftovers refrigerated really well for leftovers a couple of days later. I liked it so much that I made another batch of cranberry sauce on New Year’s Eve after I got back to California. Hey, the holidays aren’t over until I have to go back to work! (Which was actually today, but that’s another story.) I’m going to enjoy this cranberry sauce over some baked chicken this weekend. So if you have a hankering for cranberry sauce even though Christmas 2014 is over, try this recipe! Otherwise, save it until Thanksgiving 2015 and try it then!

12 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 apple, diced (or more, if desired)
1/2 pear, diced (or more, if desired)
1 c orange juice
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

In a small or medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and cool completely. The sauce will thicken more as it stands. Serve over turkey or chicken, or as a stand alone side dish. Enjoy!

Based on Cooking Light’s Basic Cranberry Sauce and McCormick’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce.