Fudge Brownies From Scratch – Of Course They’re Easy!

I know every time I go food shopping to make sure I’m “tanked up”.  You know, have a snack first? 

Never shop on an empty stomach, you just end up buying “crap”.

But… I was surfing on an empty stomach.  I had hit that dreaded hungry zone an hour before a meal.

Then this recipe showed up.

It’s a basic brownie recipe, and it looked really quite simple.  

Melt the ingredients.  Bake the ingredients.  Eat the ingredients, er, results.

I did all that and I have to say, I will most definitely do it again.  I did not add nuts last time and I want to try it with Pecans.  Pecans are my Go-To nut when I’m baking anyway.  They cook up soft, have more flavor than Walnuts, and don’t overpower like Peanuts.  If the timing is right, I’ll toss in some mini marshmallows and make Rocky Road.

My own personal history with baking brownies is long.  There was a home-ec class we all had to take in 7th grade.  Since I have a scientific mind, I took to the whole baking thing quickly.  Baking is more like chemistry than cooking a roast is.  If you get the proportions wrong, it turns out badly, and in some cases a recipe could be quite fussy.

Think anything with Meringue.

But this particular recipe?  Simple.  Literally toss the stuff into a bowl and warm it.  It can be done in the microwave, but I suggest a Bain Marie or Double Boiler.  It’s a wee bit more trouble but worth it.  Just a bowl floating on top of some simmering water and you get the right amount of heat.

The whole thing is simple.  (Hmmm, Where did I hear that before?)  Get your ingredients to room temperature first.  Just melt your butter and chocolate chips in the bowl.  If you are using the Bain Marie, put the butter on the bottom of the bowl so it melts first.  Stir it around and when it is smooth and melted, remove it from the heat and fold in the other ingredients.  Whisk it smooth, then put the batter in the prepared pan.

Preparing that pan made it perfect.  Oil the 8 by 8 baking pan.  Cover that with parchment paper.  I gave the paper a quick once over with some more cooking oil.  It all just popped free.

Bake until the toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces good chocolate chips
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter (Room Temp!)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar (baby!)
  • 2 Eggs (Room Temp!)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
  • Confectioners Sugar for dusting (Optional)

Process:

  • Gather all ingredients and get them warmed to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350F/180C
  • Oil the 8 by 8 baking pan generously or use non-stick spray.
  • Line the bottom and sides with Parchment Paper. 
  • I oiled the parchment paper and the recipe just fell off the paper perfectly.
  • Set glass or stainless steel bowl on top of a simmering pot of water for your Bain Marie.
  • Add Butter, then Chocolate Chips and stir until everything is melted and smooth.
  • Remove Bowl from the Pot and carefully whisk in the sugar and brown sugar.
  • Whisk in or Mix in an egg at a time followed by the vanilla extract and flour.
  • Whisk the mixture until the batter is well combined and smooth.
  • Transfer Batter to the 8×8 Loaf Pan
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F/180C. 
  • It is done when the toothpick can be inserted in the center and comes out clean with few crumbs.
  • Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.
  • Allow the brownies to cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours before cutting into pieces and serving.
  • Optionally dust the brownies with confectioner’s sugar to serve.

Recipe was adapted from PBS Kitchen Explorers

Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream Recipe from Eagle Brand

So my regular readers aren’t disappointed, you’ll get my blather at the top.  Complete with hints.  If you just want the recipe, page down.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream.  It was my first “Grown Up” flavor favorite.  I’ve always had a soft spot for a good Butter Pecan.  Not overly sweet.  Not bland.  Basically, Yes, Yes, I shall have some!  Please?

This is a dangerous recipe.  It may not need an ice cream freezer, although I used one.  The way I made the ice cream is to make whipped cream, stop the mixer, then fold in the ingredients, mix it a couple turns around the bowl.  Freeze.  I do strongly recommend a stand mixer with a whisk to make the whipped cream and the ice cream base.

Yeah.  Dangerous.  It is THAT good and THAT easy. 

You’re in trouble.

I was baking.  Specifically I was making some Explosively Good Caramel in the crock pot one day and the label fell off the Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk can.  I looked at the back of the label and it had a recipe for my favorite.  I looked at it, passed it around the house, and got the ingredients.  The recipe went onto the fridge with a magnet and would sit there for more than a year while I muddled how tough it would be to make Toasted Pecans.

Hey, Dummy!  It wasn’t that hard!  Go make the damn treat!

Get a non stick skillet.  Heat it to medium.  Number 5 on the electric stove, right in the middle of the heat. 

When warm, dump the Pecans onto the skillet.  No oil, no additives at all.

Stir occasionally so they don’t scorch.

When the pecan bits began to bubble a little oil out onto the surface, and some of the nuts had began to change color, pour off into a glass or metal bowl.   The glass or metal will draw out the heat and let them cool quickly.

You’re done.

So you wanna make some ice cream?  This is truly, hands down, the Absolute Best Butter Pecan Ice Cream I have EVER had.

Ever.

EVAR!!!!1!

Ever.

Yum.  (Shhh, calm down Beavis!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Heavy Cream (Should be as cold as you can get it and have it still liquid)
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk  (Should be cold)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Toasted Pecans
  • 3 Tablespoons Melted Butter (Room Temperature so you don’t shock the cream)
  • 1 teaspoon Maple Extract (We omitted this)

Process:

  • Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks in stand mixer. 
  • Combine sweetened condensed milk, toasted pecans, butter, and Maple Extract in large bowl.
  • Mix Well.
  • Fold in Whipped Cream.
  • Pour into 2 quart container and freeze for 6 hours or until firm.

To toast nuts:

  • Place Nuts in Dry Non Stick Skillet heated to Medium.
  • Shake the nuts occasionally until lightly brown.
  • To avoid overheating remove the nuts to a cooling bowl or plate when done.

Roasting Garlic Needs No Gadgets And Adds Flavor

Who knew it would be so easy?  This is more of a Kitchen Hack than it is a Recipe.

The whole thing in four lines:

  • Snip the top off the bulb of garlic.
  • Coat the bulb with Olive Oil.
  • Wrap the bulb with Aluminum Foil, adding extra Olive Oil before closing the wrap.
  • Cook for 30 minutes at 400F or until tender.

That’s it.

Now, you know my recipes, there are always back stories and reasons why I do things.

I tried this because it sounded tasty.  That’s the simple summary of it all.  Roasted Garlic, done this way, will spread like butter, if a little chunky.  The flavor becomes sweet and not so harsh.  You get the Garlic flavor that your recipes call for but it isn’t quite so “violent”.

The added sweetness will be welcome when you add it to a Pizza Sauce, since most of the best ones really require that.  Add some to a jarred sauce and tell everyone you made it from scratch.

Yeah.  That’s it.  I made it from ‘scratch’.

No you can’t hear the quotes.  I won’t tell.

But seriously that’s it.  The garlic was a “throw in” item when I made the chicken pot pie recipe a while back.  Just prepped it and tossed it in on a corner of the cookie sheet.

Yes, really, that easy.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop with that, but really even non cooks can do this one.

I wasn’t kidding about the pizza sauce either.  I took about a half of the bulb since roasted garlic is more mild than regular garlic, and “smooshed” it into a paste.  Adding the paste to the sauce, I then made a pizza which was noticeably better than the last time I used the same sauce.

If you are doubting me, you can find a pound of garlic in the warehouse stores for about three bucks.  Try one and if you hate it forget that I suggested it.

But you really don’t need that expensive one purpose gadget, just some aluminium foil.

Campbell’s Chicken Pot Pie Recipe is Easy and Tasty too

I’ve been on a Pot Pie kick lately.  Mind you, being from the Delaware Valley and Philadelphia region,
apparently we have a different way of doing this.  You folks think that a Pot Pie – chicken, beef, pork, what have you, should be a pastry shell covered with a filling inside that is soupy and savory.

Nope.

In Philly, they make it thick.  It should be roughly a pudding consistency.  It may run out, but slowly.  Think of “regular” yogurt (not the Greek kind), or a good vanilla pudding.  Not solid, but not liquid.  Gelatinous almost.

That’s what I wanted.   After getting some of those 95 cent single serving microwave pot pies and being disappointed in them, I decided to make a Proper Pot Pie.

I also wanted a roast chicken dinner that weekend, so we had that first.

You see, the filling in a pot pie should be cooked properly first.  Well done, but tender.   Cooking a roast chicken with stuffing to 165F internal temperature was perfect.

Then after it has been enjoyed, pull off all the meat.  Separate and reserve 2 cups of chicken chunks for the filling then go to the store.

So here is how to go about the rest – easily!   What makes it so easy is that I’m using precooked and already prepared items to make this.  Basically you are “assembling” it more than cooking it!

Like I said, EASY but you do have to head to the supermarket for some items.

You will need some mixed vegetables.  Traditionally it is Carrots, Potatoes, Peas, String Beans, and perhaps Onions.  I found a can of the stuff and thought that would be great.  Mixed Vegetables.  You see, if they aren’t precooked, then you may find yourself having crunchy vegetables in your pot pie.  That’s never good – so get yourself at around 12 ounces or one can of either frozen or canned mixed vegetables.  Your choice.

Make sure you have 1/2 cup of milk in the house.

Next, find yourself some proper soup for the filling.  The recipe says condensed Cream of Chicken Soup.  You want that to be thick right? It can be fat free if you prefer, and it can also be low sodium.  We went that route since I simply don’t prefer a lot of salt in my meal.
Pick up some pre-shredded Cheddar Cheese for the filling.  I always look for the lowest salt in this too, again that is my own preference.  Make sure that it is at least 1 cup in the bag, although most packaged shredded cheese packs are 2 cups.

Finally, since we said easy, we need one box of refrigerated pie crust.  The Pastry kind that comes with two crusts per box.  Making pie crust is really quite easy and takes a little time and care, but this is “bachelor chow” – so easy that anyone can do it.

The preparation of this is a lot more simple than you would think, but you do have to make that pie crust.

Trust me it’s just as good the second day.  It’s a great way to use up leftovers, and works well with turkey or even tofu if you can find a vegetarian creamed soup and want to experiment.

Per Campbells soup, here is the recipe:

Ingredient list:

  • 1 package (about 14 ounces) refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts) at room temperature.
  • 1 Can (10 3/4 ounces) of Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup or Condensed Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken – can be canned or leftover.
  • 1 package (12 ounces) frozen (or canned) mixed vegetables, thawed.  Carrots, Green Beans, Corn, Peas etc.
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (about 4 ounces by weight)

Process (Per Campbells):

  • Heat oven to 400F.
  • Line the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate with one pie crust. Trim excess.
  • Stir the soup, milk, chicken, and vegetables in a medium bowl.
  • Spoon the chicken mixture into the pie plate.
  • Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese.
  • Place the remaining Pie Crust over the filling.
  • Trim any excess.
  • Crimp the edges of the top and bottom crusts together.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top crust.
  • Bake for 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
  • Sprinkle the crust with the remaining cheese.

Some Helpful Hints on Selecting an HE Washer and Dryer

This is actually the second front loader we have ever had.  

This one is a Bosch Nexxt 700 Series washer, and it’s been crowding me out in the laundry room for about 5 years now.

What this blatant boosterism is all about is that my sister asked a question about these things on Facebook.

Quote:  “I’m interested in buying a High Efficiency washer and dryer and I’m wondering if anyone could please let me know if they have one and how do you like it.

Yes, Pat, we like it.  In fact we have been using one here and one before it in Philadelphia since around 1999 plus or minus a couple years.  We won’t do without one.

The one I had before it was a Maytag, and while we did have some teething pains until we learned that you have to keep the door open or else you would get mold or mildew in the thing, we have been very happy with them.

My only problem with the ones here is that I’m physically broader at the shoulder than the room we crammed the things into.  But that isn’t the washer’s problem is it.

When looking for a washer there are quite a few things to look for.

The rubber rings should not be white.  They will discolor in any washer, and if you don’t leave the lid shut, you will get mold on them.  Mine are a battleship grey.  Not my favorite color, but a good compromise.

Make sure the washer has a timer on it.  You will be surprised how well you will enjoy being able to load the washer and set it for a timed wash to be ready when you come home from work or when you wake up in the morning.  Nobody likes to twiddle their fingers waiting on a washer that is running on your time.  I can silence my beeper on the washer and set the thing to be done an hour before I wake up if I like.   Usually when I do that, I wake up at that time anyway but that’s my own little mental problem.

You will want an extra hot cycle.   My hot water is set for 125F here, that is per the British National Health Service recommendation.  The NHS recommendation means that the water coming out of the tap will be hot enough to sterilize clothing so be careful.  But on top of that my washer will heat the water to “ungodly hot”.  Somewhere above 140 if I remember right, although it could be warmer than 160.   Perfect for when you have house guests or little brats staying with you.  You never know what they’re going to get into, do you?

I always use HE soap.  That was an education for me.  I had to look for the logo and now I just buy the stuff in bulk at the wholesale store when I have a coupon.  I now have back-stock for about a year of laundries.

You will use less soap and much less water.   I have paid for the washer by now with the savings on both soap and water.  My utility bills dropped immediately by about $25 a month from the old school top loader that was beyond inefficient.   The cups for the detergent are quite small.   You will use about 1/4 cup of soap per load.  I remember being taught to dump about a cup (8 ounces) of soap “back in the day” by Mom when I learned to do my own laundry.

It will be an adjustment because you will have to learn how to load clothes.   A front loader isn’t what we grew up with.  If it fits you can wash it.  Don’t cram it in, clothes will need “room to dance” but basically if it fits in there without being stuffed full, you should be good.

I wash blankets in my home washer every week.  Clean linens are nice, but sterile linens are something I still notice after all this time.  When our Aunt Betty was still here, she had a big comforter that she was going to take to the laundromat to clean for the “next season”.   We took it to our house, tossed it in the washer by itself, set it for ultra hot, and sipped some port wine by the pool.  A rather civilized way to do wash I would say.  But the comforter came out sterile clean.  We all were quite pleased.   You can ask Aunt Betty about that.

Finally, we did get the 10 year warranty.  Since I live in South Florida, the electric power coming into the house is full of power pops and more surges than a menopausal woman.  I lost more desktop computers than I care to count as a result of that, and went over to a laptop as a result years ago.  You will have to decide whether this is good for you or not.  I will say that all the problems we had with ours were in setting the thing up and we put a power filter on the washer, dryer, and the house in general as a result.

I can ramble on about this thing, basically since you didn’t ask about a “Specific Model” I am not raving about my washer so much as talking about the technology.  But do your research.  A Bad Washer is a nightmare, and you can avoid that by looking at review sites online.

We’re quite happy with ours, can you tell?

LED Lighting at Gables Wilton Park – Picture

You are probably familiar with my favorite view of Miami.   It’s actually Miami Beach, but there’s a spot just off shore that shows the skyline of Ocean Drive where all those wonderful old Art Deco hotels are lit up.  They show off the colors of the buildings and turn them into a line of wedding cakes standing by the ocean glowing in the evening.  Centered on the Colony Hotel, this is a rather famous view used in many places such as the old Miami Vice TV Show.

Lighting these buildings is a tradition that will begin to show more often in the future.  The reason is that the cost to operate similar lighting installations will get much more cost effective with the advent of LED Lighting.  Being in South Florida, LED Lights also have the benefit of not being visible to Mosquitoes, and nobody wants to draw attention to themselves by those pests.

A typical LED lamp will burn a quarter of the power, on average, than a comparable Incandescent light bulb.   Since they are all considered low power, they may more easily be controlled by computer installations which will allow differing displays based on the whims of the owners.   Color shifting lights, flashing messages, and many more attention grabbing displays will become popular in the future as we learn how to use these lights.

I was considering putting in a line of LED lights under the eaves of my own house when I realized that it would burn less than 20 watts and light the entire front yard.

Large buildings looking for attention would be the more obvious choice for this sort of thing, especially in an Arts and Entertainment district such as our own Wilton Drive.  The largest building collection on the Drive is the Gables complex called Wilton Park.   Gables has a reputation for being forward thinking and when they’re here, they’re here to improve the cities they choose to place their apartment complexes.

It didn’t surprise me when I started seeing changes to the facade of the building.  I didn’t know what they were going to put there, but with their reputation, I knew that it would be interesting.

First there showed up a 12 foot-or-so LED tree that graces NE 21st Court overlooking their entrance to the community and visible from Wilton Drive and City Hall.   Now we have the long light strips of white LEDs that are lighting up a diffusing stripe.   They add a touch of class to an already impressive address that we will all appreciate once they are officially turned on.  The additional light on Wilton Drive will serve to enhance the block and the city and make Wilton Park a much more desirable place to open your business.  

“Oh my office is in the Heart of Wilton Manors at the Gables.  Just look for the building with the light stripes!”

These light strips are apparently not “officially” turned on at this moment, but last night on my walk around town, I made it a point to have the camera when I took this picture.   This is only the first or second change to the facade of the building, and there will be more changes since they swapped out the bougainvillea that were there for some smaller plants and installed power drops for future installations. 

They are here to stay and they’re making the most of Wilton Drive and Wilton Manors.

Mai Kai Grotto – Picture

When the family comes in from out of town, get off your high horse and do some touristy things.

Here in Fort Lauderdale, there’s a One Of A Kind gem of a restaurant called Mai Kai.  It’s one of the last few large scale Polynesian themed restaurants in the nation.   They were all over the place in the years after the Second World War, but faded away.  Tastes changed, and it’s labor intensive to do it right.

Mai Kai does it right.  Complete with stunning Polynesian dancers in grass skirts.   The food is simply put, amazing.   I have a speed bump on their menu since I always get their Pork Tenderloin – I just can’t get past that pork!  I also have a rule that I will not order a meal in a fine restaurant that I can make at home as well as they can.   Their pork melts on my fork which is why I have it.

When Cousin Bill arrived from Nebraska, we were sitting around debating where to go for dinner that night.  We wanted to go somewhere that you just can’t find anywhere else and absolutely no chain restaurants.   Mai Kai absolutely fit the bill.  Or the Bills since there were two of us. 

The thing is that when you are in a restaurant that has tropical gardens that are strewn around water features, tiki torches, icons and statues, and a “Chinese Oven” that cooks your food in a wood fired chimney you will want to bring your camera. 

When we go, we always sit outside.   The show is amazing, but the idea of being able to sit next to a waterfall and watch the skies go from blue to black over the palm trees is a rare show that you should not pass up.   It’s also much more private since the gardens are not what the place is known for.

It is easy to get obnoxious with a camera.  To get the pictures “right” in low light you really do need a tripod.   On the other hand, since it’s dim in there half of the challenge is seeing the scene and setting up the shot.  That makes the actual picture secondary.

After all, your dinner will be waiting once you get back to the table and that is why you came.   Try the pork tenderloin.  It’s amazing too.