Friday, February 18, 2011

Belated Valentine's Day - Best Brownies EVER

I love celebrations. Holidays are a wonderful excuse to have a little fun with those you love, and create traditions - however simple they may be - that, to me, are part of what really are the heart of a family, however you define it. So any holiday that rolls around puts a smile on my face, including Valentine's Day. An excuse to show family/friends/lovers/pets (whatever you've got!) how much you care? Yes, please! We need more of that in life!

On major holidays we usually pack up and head to my parents' home a couple hours away, which is always wonderful, but for smaller ones such as this we usually simply invite my little brother, Pete, over. I love having him right in town, not only because I like spending time with him (he's hilarious), but also because he is always enthusiastic about a home-cooked meal and I love cooking for someone so happy about it! It's especially delightful because he's pretty handy in the kitchen himself, so I take it as a pretty high compliment. This Valentine's Day I made something the boys both love: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole with Rice Pilaf.

The recipe is from Pillsbury; I made a few changes, though. For one, I used regular chicken tenders, not honey ones - too sweet for my liking. I also used regular black forest ham rather than the maple for the same reason. You can find the recipe here: . Definitely give it a try! It's remarkably simple and utterly delicious. The boys ate almost the entire pan all by themselves!

Of course, what would Valentine's Day be without chocolate? So I made the boys a brownie heart, which I wish I had better pictures of, but it had to be done quickly before it was devoured mercilessly!

I'm in love with this brownie recipe, I must say - the best I've ever made. It has so many virtues. First, it is EASY. It only dirties up one pot and one pan, and is in the oven in, oh, fifteen minutes or so, and that includes some cooling time before you add the eggs. The reward for so little effort is a perfectly chewy, crackling-topped, deeply chocolate piece of homemade joy. Make this. Your loved ones will worship you. Make sure you have milk on hand!

Happiness Brownies

10 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 seaspoons water
3/4 cup plus two teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt (or more if you're using unsalted butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup chocolate chips, optional
1.      Preheat the oven to 325. Spray an 8x8 square or 8 inch round pan with lots of Baker's Joy.  
2.      Melt the butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn, stirring it around.  
3.      Once it's melted, remove it from the heat and immediately add the sugar, cocoa, water, salt and vanilla. Stir to combine; it will be grainy.
4.      Let it cool for five minutes or so, then add in the eggs one at a time, whisking after each one - I use a fork for this, actually. The cooling is so that you don't accidentally cook the egg. The batter will get thick and shiny as you do this.
5.      Add the flour, then, using a hand mixer if you have one, beat for 2 minutes. If you're using the chocolate chips, stir them in by hand once the 2 minutes is up.
6.      Pour the batter into your pan, smooshing it around with a spoon so it's even, and bake for 20-25 minutes. The brownies should look like they're dry and/or pulling away from the edges of the pan, but the center will still be gooey if you stab it. Don't worry, they will firm up after they set. Try not to devour in one sitting!

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