Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Art of Being Neighborly

So, I live in a small town. So, I bake things for my neighbors. So, I'm really Southern. So what!

My sister made fun of me tonight because I baked a batch of brownies for my new neighbors. But, the thing is...I like to bake. AND...when you bake for your neighbors then eventually they might do things for you in return. Like move heavy things. Or kill snakes. At least...that's what I hope will happen in result of the brownies.

I had an idea the other night. I wanted some vanilla brownies. But with chocolate chips. And with cinnamon. But I couldn't find a recipe. So I googled a couple of things, and came up with this:

Vanilla Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Brownies

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla (I always use Mexican)
3 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10x15 inch pan. (If you don't have 10x15, use a 9x13, but you will need to bake longer.)

2. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugars, cinnamon, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add 1 egg at a time, continuing mixing.

4. Slowly add flour mixture to batter and beat until well mixed. Fold in chocolate chips.

5. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35-45 minutes.**

6. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. When cooled, cut into squares.

**Watch the brownies as you get near the end of baking. The top of mine started to get a little crunchy, but once it cooled, they cut fine.


Ummm...these brownies were pretty darn good! Very rich, but good! And I might add a little more cinnamon next time to bring out that flavor. Or some nutmeg. Something to spice it up though.

I think the neighbors were impressed. You know, it never hurts to sweeten them up! I may need their muscles in the future!

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On fudge and love and remembering

I haven’t blogged in a while, on either site, if you (my three readers) haven’t noticed. I’m a writer by day, and though I love it in my pastime, it’s usually more…emotional and personal when it’s not for work. But yesterday I found the strength to post this, in an edited version, which was written at the end of May. Get out your box of Kleenex’s!

Ever since I was a child, I have loved to cook. I honestly can’t remember how early I started cooking, or who first introduced me to cooking. It was probably my mother, who comes from a long line of great cooks. I’m sure I helped her back a cake or cookies or something, and somehow just took it on as one of my favorite things to do.

One of my earliest memories is baking around the holidays with my Mamaw (mother’s mom) and my Aunt Gloria (mom’s older sister). We would get together at my grandparent’s house and make all kinds of goodies like chocolate covered everything, buckeye balls, Martha Washington balls, divinity, etc. We would spend an entire day making candy and getting ready for whatever family holiday was to follow.

I have fond memories of the times spent in the kitchen with my aunt and Mamaw. They taught me a lot about baking, measuring, and the science of cooking. (Like how you should make candy on a crisp, cool day with no humidity. It sets better!) They also spent time investing in my life, showing me what it’s like to be family, to be a Christian woman, and to be good in the kitchen.

Every time we baked, we had our very own taste tester. My Papaw had a major sweet tooth, and would always sneak in and take a nibble of what we were up to. He was incorrigible when it came to the kitchen! We absolutely couldn’t keep him away from the candy, but that was okay because it needed to be tested anyway!

Papaw’s favorite homemade treat, or so I recall, was chocolate fudge. (His real favorite candy was chocolate covered cherries. The last thing I gave him was a box of those in the hospital.) Papaw was always a sucker for fudge. Anytime we made it, he came in and stole a piece, or two, or three... Sometimes he wouldn’t even let it set up properly before he stole a piece. I remember teasing him, and slapping his hand away, but always laughing because he was so silly and fun.

I have such good memories of those days with my grandparents. They really loved me and invested their lives in me, and I am so thankful for those times. I am thankful that I lived just a few miles away from them for most of my life, and that they were able to attend choir performances, plays, band recitals, soccer games, etc., etc. They took me camping, to ballgames, to the movies, to church, and were such an integral part of my childhood. I am thankful for their love and support of me over the last 30 years.

On June 6, my grandparents celebrated their 62 wedding anniversary. It’s remarkable to me to have been married so long. It was a blessing to witness how much they loved and cared for each other through the years. They continued to tease one another, flirt, hold hands, bat eyes, and act like two teenagers in love. They were sweet, and truly lived for the other. They showed me what it was like to love someone else unconditionally.

On June 6 my sweet, loving, adoring Papaw joined our savior in heaven. Mamaw was by his side holding his hand.

To say the last month has been hard is an understatement. I know grief is a process, and he is not the first person I have lost. But he is by far the most significant person in my life to go. I still get very sad at times when I think that I will never share a laugh, a hug, or a sweet moment with him. But at the same time I had 30 years of shared moments that will stay with me forever. I will always miss him, and I will always love him. I will always be thankful to our time spent together. And I look forward to one day seeing him again in heaven and worshiping our Lord for eternity.

My Papaw loved fudge. Plain, simple chocolate fudge. Every time I make it, I will think of him.

Love you, Paps!

Easy Chocolate Fudge
Adapted from the Eagle’s Brand Milk recipe

3 cups (18 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz.) can Fat Free Sweetened Condensed Milk
Dash salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Wax paper

Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with wax paper. Slowly melt chocolate chips with the
sweetened condensed milk and salt in heavy saucepan. Be careful not to heat too quickly because it can burn. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and add vanilla. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Chill fudge for 2 hours until it sets and is firm. Then remove the fudge by lifting the wax paper out of the pan. Cut into small, bite-sized squares with a knife.