It’s Saturday – Butter Your Brownies!

Duncan Hines chewy fudge brownie mixes were speaking to me.  “You need a treat,” John encouraged me as we shopped together Friday evening.  But I didn’t need a treat before bedtime.  What I needed was a good night’s sleep followed by an early morning brownie and coffee party with whatever beloved (all my housemates are my beloveds) might be awake, or with myself, also a beloved of mine.

“Why,” Hannah queried this morning as we licked the bowl, “Do these taste better than homemade?”

“Probably because we don’t have the right recipe,” I said.  And probably because, as good as Duncan does with his brownies, I doctor them to make them even better.  I butter my brownies.

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Hannah and I chatted as I mixed the mix, and I consequently used the recommended oil instead of my usual butter/peanut butter improvement.  Easily remedied.  I would butter them when they were finished, all nice and warm.

I did remember to add coconut and walnuts (normally I add vanilla and a bit of salt as well) and watched them carefully, being sure to take them out of the oven when they were barely, or even not quite, done.  Later, for elevenses perhaps, we would have a “real” breakfast – sausages, scrambled eggs with cream cheese, cinnamon toast with peaches, and tea.

But for now chocolate would be the proper way to begin a Saturday.

Hannah and I buttered our brownies, and Hannah added peanut butter to her saucer as well.  We drank our coffee and talked, wondering when the wafting scent of brownies would “wake the dead” as is usual.  Sure enough, Benjamin soon joined us, rubbing his hands together, and asking as though it was too good be true, “Brownies for breakfast?”

These put him in the mood to write, and off he went.  Next up was Rebekah who simply broke into laughter at the sight and scent of brownies.  John wouldn’t be all that enthusiastic, I reasoned, but Seth would think he’d died in his sleep and was having breakfast in Heaven if I were to take him brownies and coffee in bed.

I did so, and Seth opened his eyes only slightly, but his smile was clear and bright as Colorado winter sunshine.  “Thanks,  Mom.  You’re the best.”

Buttered brownies to start the day.  Who knows what might follow?

 

Is it Cocoa or is it Hot Chocolate? No, it’s Pudding!

IMG_3722Actually, it’s none of the three if it’s a store bought mix.  After you follow and hopefully tweak, my recipe for hot chocolate (which I’ll show you how to turn to pudding), you’ll never use a mix again.

You begin with 1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa in a sauce pan (amount depends on how dark you like it).  Hershey’s is fine, but I prefer bulk cocoa from Sprouts.  Stir in about half as much sugar (if 1/2 cup of cocoa, then 1/4 cup of  sugar).  I use organic evaporated cane juice and/or organic coconut sugar.  Next add about 1 scant teaspoon of sea salt (or a little less if you’re using regular salt) and stir all together.

Stir in any workable (depends on what’s on hand) combination of milk, cream, half-n-half, evaporated milk, or even powdered milk.  I recommend about 4 cups of whole milk, one cup of half-n-half, and a half cup of heavy whipping cream.  You can double this without any complaints by using water to stretch the recipe, even half whole milk and half water makes a delicious outcome.  You can also hold the whipping cream and have it on top (recipe following near the end of the post).

As the cocoa tends to adhere to itself, and be a bit mix-resistant, I find the pictured potato masher works well to solve this problem.

On medium heat, heat to steaming, stirring frequently, then taste test for sweetness and chocolatey-ness.  I like mine a little bitter, but still at this point I add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey.  Note:  you can make this with white sugar (not as healthy) or sweeten entirely with honey.  Just take it slowly with honey, as it’s easy to get too much.

Tip:  butter or oil in your measuring cup will cause the honey to slide right out, or you can just eyeball it and pour it right out of the honey jug.

Now it’s time to add your choice of either vanilla (homemade is best-see the net for ideas/recipes) or almond flavoring.

Now taste test again.  If it seems to be lacking, you might try coffee, orange flavoring, nutmeg, cinnamon, or some combination thereof.  For coffee flavoring you can simply stir in a little Taster’s Choice instant, or, as I show in the picture, put some regular ground (I use about a tablespoon) in a tea ball and let it steep a bit.  This is really delicious!

Note:  A fine mesh tea strainer for your coffee infusion gives a better result than does the pictured tea ball, as it eliminates most of the coffee dregs.

AND NOW AND YAY FOR PUDDING!

Per my kids’ request, I turned the above into pudding by simply:

Adding butter and peanut butter and coconut and walnuts:  a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 cup of peanut butter, 1/2 cup of organic unsweetened flake coconut, chopped walnuts on top upon serving;

Then . . . thicken by simply sprinkling organic whole wheat flour over the top and stirring it in.  Since I don’t measure and got a bit too much, I added more milk.  How much flour did I use?  About 4 tablespoons I think.

However, start slowly as your flour, especially if it’s white flour, will thicken differently than did mine.  Also, if you’re using cornstarch, just follow the directions on the box which will tell you the ratios between corn starch and flour.

I have stopped using cornstarch for two reasons:  first, I was out of it and found out by accident that I liked the taste of whole wheat flour, and that it didn’t tend to lump as does cornstarch at times; second, I am leery of corn products which don’t staunchly proclaim their non-GMO status.

So, back to your pudding.  Stir almost constantly to avoid sticking and scorching–a very disappointing outcome–and let it boil and bubble a bit to cook your thickener.

Now for taste testing, at which time other humans will miraculously appear:  If it doesn’t really thrill the taster(s), try more vanilla or almond flavoring.  Or perhaps orange (I like this VERY much, my family not so much).  Or maybe any combination.  You can take a  bit out for yourself and be your own guinea pig before flavoring the entire batch.

Also, if you have stick-tending cookware, just create a makeshift double boiler by tucking your pan into a larger pan, with water in the bottom pan.

Now for some really good news:  Eat this pudding in beautiful bowls with perhaps an English Digestive or some ripe strawberries and you’ve got a meal.  No kidding.

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I have also used the leftover pudding or hot chocolate (make sure you keep a bit back) to wake up the child of the day.  What is the child of the day?  That’s for another post.

One last thought:  Leave the cocoa out entirely, for a lovely orange vanilla pudding, or, and this is one of my very favorites, use crushed pineapple and vanilla for your flavorings, and put toasted pecans on top.  Oh my!

The bottom line is that pudding is lovely and brilliant and you should go make some.

AND NOW FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM!!!

Put your bowl and mixing beaters in the freezer and your heavy whipping cream in the back of the fridge (where it’s coldest) for at least 15 minutes.

Add a tablespoon or two of sweetener (your choice) and a bit of salt to your whipping cream (and flavoring if that sounds good to you–vanilla almost always works) and just mix away until peaks form.  They don’t have to be stiff as there is reportedly such a thing as whipping the cream too long and causing it to begin softening.

If you like, you can forget the pudding or hot chocolate and can make whipped cream all by itself for dessert.  Simply serve it with a bit of nutmeg on top, and perhaps a pecan, or some berries, or all by its own marvelous self.  People will love it!  Everyone wants all the whipped cream they can get.

Homemade whipped cream is also, in my opinion, much better with cake or brownies, than is vanilla ice cream.  I know most people disagree, but you can tuck that thought away and try it some time.

We make domino, card, and board games enticing, and being snowed in during late May palatable, simply by adding hot chocolate or pudding to the evening.

Would a skinny hot chocolate packet or a pudding mix do the same thing?  Not even close.

Early Morning Rain, Jesus, Testosterone, Good Books, Babies, and so Forth

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I cut and pasted these from my 2009 Facebook “25 Things” because it made me happy to read, and because I think it will be fun to add to it.

1. I love quiet time with Jesus early, early in the morning, and a nap in the afternoon.
2. I love putting in a load of laundry at 4:00 a.m. before I build a fire, make a cuppa or indulge in my latest new coffee, and settle in for quiet time.
3. I love being a member of the revolution Jesus started 2000 years ago.
4. I love rain. And more rain. Long, grey, dreary rainstorms.
5. With good books, like five or ten, fiction and non-fiction.
6. And a journal with colored pens, and a legal pad for absolutely mindless scribbling.
7. I love sending letters on nice stationery with lots of stickers and a pretty stamp.
8. I love watching my kids out the window on their sleds.
9. I love it when they wipe out and shriek with laughter, only to be pounced on by the dog, and get up and do it again!
10. I love John.
11. I love men who are so manly the testosterone drips off them, but they wear pink proudly, and are really good at comforting babies and changing diapers (John).
12. I love men who sing country love songs and hold my hand and sound like Vince Gill (yes, you guessed it – John).
13. I love men who love like Jesus – John, and also my dad.
14. I love my friends and all my family, especially all those little babies I have never seen.
15. I love big hardwood trees in the fall.
16. I love Fall.
17. I love God’s new mercies every morning.
18. I love color, lots of clear, bright color, or soft, muted colors. And light – iridescent, translucent, luminous, shimmering light.
19. Like on water. I love water, especially the Pacific ocean, but any water will do. I even love mud puddles.

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20. I love to travel. Even if it’s just a new dirt road close to home.
21. I love conversations with friends.
22. I love home schooling, and all my great teachers – my children.  And talking about home schooling with other home schoolers.
23. I love studying my kids, discovering them, marveling at God’s genius in creating them.
24. I love marriage. And chocolate.
25. I love whipping the devil’s butt when he tries to make me afraid. I love Jesus.

April, 2015 – And smiling teenagers teaching themselves without any Mom-prodding.

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