Food Friday – Brownies

One of my absolute favorite things to do is cook for other people – especially baking goodies.  There are times when nothing will do but chocolate.  There is comfort in it, there are lifetime memories associated with it, chocolate is love.

I was asked to bring “brownies or something” to Paul’s celebration of life tomorrow.  I immediately knew the recipe I would use.  For years I had a reputation with my family members (especially my children) that I was the master of disaster when it came to baking brownies.  As the girls got older they would bake brownies often using a mix.  They had no trouble at all.  Me, well let’s just say if it comes out of a box I am completely incompetent.  I would burn them, or they were so undercooked they would be inedible.  I think it was because I followed the directions, messed up and then over compensated on the next try.  Amanda had it down, knocked off a couple of minutes for the particular pan she was using and they always came out perfect.

I took this as a challenge in the back of my mind, one day I would conquer my relationship with brownies.   I read this recipe years ago in Yankee Magazine and it completely changed my outlook on brownies.  It’s called Julie’s Brownies and really is the best recipe ever – deep chocolate, sugar crust, brownie perfection. The only caveat is it makes a HUGE batch.

Brownies (1)

The recipe starts off with 8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and 3 sticks of butter set on low heat to melt together.  I once made the mistake of using semisweet and although it was a near disaster there were many people who liked their cloying sweetness.  (I wasn’t kidding about my problem with brownies).

Brownies (2)

While the chocolate/butter is melting butter your pan and sprinkle it with sugar.  I just dump a mound in the middle of the pan and shake it around until the pan is coated, then dump the excess in the sink.

Brownies (3)

This has such a wonderful smell while it’s heating through.  Once melted let it cool to room temperature.

Brownies (4)

Now I know not everyone likes walnuts in their brownies (or anywhere for that matter) so I chop about 3/4 of a cup to be sprinkled on half of the pan, this way everyone is happy.  I buy walnuts and pecans in bulk, use a vacu-sealer and freeze a cup and a half per bag.  I always have nuts for that impromptu baking session.  That nut grinder?  If you don’t have one get one, they are awesome and go right into the dishwasher.

Brownies (5)

Half a dozen eggs go into the stand mixer.

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Along with 3 1/2 cups of sugar.  You read right, 3 1/2.  I measure carefully knowing this is another potential hazard for me – losing count.

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Once the eggs and sugar are mixed you add the vanilla.  I made this for Christmas presents a couple of years ago – it is amazing.  There’s another disaster story that goes along with this.  One time I was making these brownies, grabbed the orange extract and put in the two teaspoons – aarrgh.  Those were an epic fail.

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The chocolate/butter is added, then the flour and mixed until just combined.

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Then poured into that nice sugar coated pan.  This is a 12 x 17 jelly roll pan.  That’s a lot of brownies my friends.

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Before they go into the oven I sprinkle on the nuts.  These look delicious and smell heavenly while baking.

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And here they are out of the oven, perfect. Once cooled I will cut them into squares and arrange them in a basket to be delivered to the church tomorrow.  Some of the people I love the most will be there and even though they probably won’t  give a thought to who made the brownies I will know how much love was put into them.



On Grandparents

560801 Jo & Mim

My Mimi (Lena Babineau Alix) with me – 1956

Last Friday a long time customer of ours came in to have the oil changed in her car.  She and her husband have been bringing their cars into us for over 25 years.  Her husband passed away a little over a year ago after doing battle with dementia for a number of years.  She was with him 6 days a week for over 3 years at the veterans hospital.

Before his illness they spent a good deal of their time outdoors.  He was an avid fisherman, they had a place in Maine, I believe on a lake.  Family was everything to them and all would spend many, many days fishing with their father/grandfather.

As she reminisced about the days shortly after the death of her husband she told me the first words out of her 12-year-old granddaughter’s mouth were “Who will take me fishing?’.  Father and uncles all said that they would but her response was “But it won’t be the same”.

I felt her granddaughter’s pain.  My grandparents have been gone for many, many years now.  I miss them dearly.  They all had their strengths, the things that they played to.  Grampa was the Red Sox, beer and spanish peanuts, always.  Nan taught me how to embroider, we learned to quilt together, handcrafts were the game.  Pampi always tinkered with things (he was actually quite brilliant in his mechanical ability) and was always ready to laugh.  Mimi was the one I played with, laughed with, hugged, adored. She was the one who I trusted and loved more than the others.  She was always on our level through every age.  When visiting Mimi and Pampi I always felt unconditionally loved, I could do no wrong.

It’s the little things that we remember.  I drank my first cup of tea at their table (really warm milk).  Tea was always ritual with them – a pot was brewed after supper, every night.  We would sit around the table and talk.  We would laugh at Pampi’s antics to get a rise out of the wife he clearly adored.  The great aunts and uncles would visit, tales of the past and gossip of the present would rule, an uncle would slip into French when he was excited. Laughter, always lots of laughter.

One of my nieces was lamenting the fact that her children will never know her Mabel the way she does.  It’s true we said but you never knew our Mimi and that is sad for us.  Each child in each generation has their own experience.  I hope that I am the kind of grandmother that my grandchildren can lament their children not knowing.  I do know that they will probably grow up drinking some sort of hot beverage, sitting around a table and talking about the old days. They will probably also spend a good deal of time outdoors looking at bugs, birds and plants.  I can teach them to use their hands and hopefully their minds and I hope that’s what they’ll remember.


Gerber Daisy Lg


“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have our heart go walking around outside your body.”

Elizabeth Stone

Today is my youngest’s 26th birthday, it is also the week before Mother’s Day.  I’m not one to celebrate mother’s day in an extravagant way.  For me everyday is mother’s day even though my children are well into adulthood.  Of all the things I have done in my life being a mother has been the most important to me.  It defines who I am now.  I just always hope that I have raised kind and compassionate people, both with themselves and others.

Then days come like yesterday when I get to spend an afternoon with my progeny – two that I raised and one I did not and was recently reunited with. It was a quiet time enabling me to reflect on who they’ve become.  A chance to look at them and see my history in their eyes – my mother, my father, my grandparents and marvel at the wonder of it all.  There are so many things they are born with that just need a little nurturing.  The amazing thing is you often don’t see these things until they are adults.

 I wasn’t fully aware how many of our children’s talents are inherited and blossom with a little nurture.  It’s so much like planting a garden.  You put those seeds in the ground knowing what they are and how they will look but you fuss over them and water them and watch over their growth and maturity.  When they mature it is still a marvelous revelation. You think how beautiful even though you knew it all along.

Seeing what they’ve become is only part of it though, there are no words to express the swelling in my soul that encompasses them.  It defies description, yet I know when they have children of their own they will know the feeling.  The idea that your heart is walking outside of your body embodies so many things.  I think I’ll try to remember next time I’m out in the world that every person has a mother who has this same primal desire for her child to feel the sweet kindness of those who come to know them.

Every mom’s heart is out there in the world walking outside her body.