Fudgy, Chewy, Chocolatey Brownies

I consider myself a connoisseur of brownies. I have eaten hundreds of different kinds of brownies. I, of course, have a checklist of what I enjoy in a brownie and what makes an exceptional one! It has to be soft and chewy. It has to have that rich, fudgy, decadent flavor. Not to bitter and not to sweet. In my opinion, a brownie does not have to be frosted. If it is tasty enough to stand on its own, then let it! But if it is frosted, the frosting has to be good enough to not ruin the brownie. Okay, I’ll stop and just say that this brownie is ALL of these things. It is also easy to make. No fancy ingredients and no weird baking methods. Just a yummy brownie! And just for the record, these babies are good enough to stand on their own. So now it’s for you to decide: Frost or not to frost?

BEST BROWNIES

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand alone mixer, combine butter and sugar. Then add eggs and mix until combined. Add vanilla, cocoa and salt and mix. Add flour and combine. Do not over mix.

Pour batter into a 9×13 greased baking dish. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out almost clean.

FROSTING

  • 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate squares. In a stand alone mixer, cream the butter for about 4 minutes. Add melted chocolate, 4 cups powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix. Slowly add milk until the mixture begins to look like frosting. Then add one cup of powdered sugar at a time and adding milk to achieve the desired consistency. The trick to this frosting is to keep on whipping. Make sure all powdered sugar is blended before adding more.

Cool brownies completely before frosting.

 

 

 

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

I love croutons on salads and soups, and up until recently it had never occurred to me to make my own. Then one night while my kitchen was in the throngs of the remodel, a friend, who is a wonderful cook, brought me dinner  (I know, I have nice friends, don’t I?). Besides the other yumminess, she brought a caesar salad with these homemade croutons on top. Oh, to die for!!! Croutons are so easy to make and taste so much better than even the best store bought. Once you make these, you’ll never go back!  I now keep these on hand at all times.

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

  • 1 loaf good ciabatta bread (I prefer Semi Freddies)*
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice the Ciabatta loaf into bite sized pieces, then place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil and toss.  Then drizzle another Tablespoon oil and toss again.  Repeat a third time until all the bread is coated.  Sprinkle with the garlic salt and toss again to disperse evenly.

Spread the bread cubes onto a jelly roll pan in a single layer.

Bake at 350 degress for 15 minutes, or until croutons are crisp and golden brown.

Remove and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

*Note: You could substitute any good crusty bread to make the croutons.  I’ve used french baguettes, sourdough, pugilese, rustic italian.

Ultimate German Chocolate Cake

Did you all have a nice Mother’s Day?  Mine was pretty good.  I got to spend all day in my kitchen, cooking up a storm, and then my kids all cleaned it up for me at the end of the day.  For me, that’s perfect.  I love to cook, but I hate to clean, so it was a real treat to know that I could just run wild and not have to worry about the mess!

One of my favorite treats is a yummy German Chocolate Cake, so what else would I make on Mother’s Day?  Now if there are any of you out there who don’t like German Chocolate cake, I have to say it’s only because you haven’t tried this one.  The grocery store and even the bakery versions are not the same.  In fact, they are so different that I would NEVER buy one.  Not worth it, in any way shape or form.  The homemade German Chocolate Cake is a whole different delicious animal!

In fact, by the time it was completed and ready to serve, I was so anxious to dive in for a piece that I forgot to take a picture of the entire cake, so you’ll have to settle for this one of just a slice.

I will preface this recipe by saying… as you can probably tell by the ingredients and instructions, the baking of this cake is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a while, and there are a lot of steps, but it is well worth it!  (And it helps if you have a few kids cleaning up your mess behind you, like I did)

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Cake:

  • 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (it’s easier to separate the eggs when they are cold, so do that and then let them come to room temp)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Coconut Pecan Filling:

  • 1 ½ cans (18 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour 3, 9 inch cake pans.  Then line with parchment paper.

For the Cake:

In a small microwave safe bowl, place the chocolate chips and water.  Heat for 1 minute.  Stir to combine the water and chocolate.  If the chocolate isn’t melted, heat for another 30 seconds, and stir again.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add the egg yolks and mix to combine.  Add the chocolate mixture and mix to combine.  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.  Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, in 3 parts.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold into batter.

Divide batter among the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling racks.

For the coconut pecan filling:

In a large saucepan, beat together the milk and egg yolks.  Stir in the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Turn heat on to medium and cook 15-18 or until thick, bubbly and golden.  Remove from heat.  Add coconut and pecans.  Cool to room temperature.  (About 2 hours.  Frosting will thicken as it cools)

For the Chocolate fudge frosting:

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and the chocolate, stirring to combine.  Remove from heat add powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, and beat until smooth.

When cake and frosting have cooled, spread coconut pecan filling between layers of cake.  Then using the chocolate fudge frosting, seal the sides of the cake.  Then finish with the coconut pecan filling on top.

Baby Shower Edition Part IV…The Party Favor

So what is a baby shower without a little something your guests can take home? Jordan almonds perhaps? (One of my faves!) Or maybe a cute decorated sugar cookie? I decided on a homemade brown sugar scrub. So easy to make and definitely affordable! And did I mention that Shannon was actually out here this weekend for a visit? So I put her to work! We tested our homemade recipe and made a few changes, but it turned out great. (she was nicknamed “The Drizzler” because her job was to drizzle the oil on the sugar mixture.) Seems like an easy task, right? After trial and error, Shannon came up with the perfect sugar to oil ratio. Good job, Drizzler!

So here is the easiest,affordable baby shower favor! And in case you are wondering, it works super fabulous! The sweet almond oil softens the skin, and the sugar is an amazing exfoliator! I have the softest elbows and heels on the block! Maybe there are no baby showers in your future, I still say make some of this to enjoy in your own shower or tub!  (To fill 24 half pint jars, I made about 6 batches of this scrub)

Brown Sugar Scrub

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for smell purposes!)
  • 1-2 (8 ounce bottles) sweet almond oil
  • mason jars (choose a size you like! I used wide mouth half pint jars)

In a large mixing bowl combine brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Transfer sugar mixture into single mason jars. Drizzle the almond oil on top of the sugar mixture until coated, then drizzle a wee bit more. Use a fork to combine oil into sugar mixture. (if you like a less oily scrub, use less almond oil. If you find you like it more oily, add some more) Put lids on mason jars and close tightly.

Baby Shower Edition Part I…The Decor

It was my honor to throw a baby shower for a friend this weekend. She is having a baby girl! Ah, my favorite! I love my baby boy, but there is something about a baby girl that makes my heart smile! All that pink and all those ladybugs, flowers, butterflies, and glitter! Yes! I wanted to keep it simple, yet girly. I had so much fun scanning Pinterest and planning for this party, that I wanted to share it with you!

Started by making these adorable pom poms…

I am seeing these pom poms all over the place and love them! Thank you Martha Steward for your easy tutorial! Go HERE if you want to make some, too! I hung 6 of them from our ceiling, and they added such flare and happy girl vibes, that I was sad to take them down.

For the table decor, I chose to use simple pink and white gerbera flowers dispursed thoroughout the house in decorated mason jars. So easy! I bought the large mason jars at my grocery store and wrapped a piece of burlap around them (hot glued the ends together). Then I tied a satin ribbon around the burlap.

So, I wanted to do something different for the outside of the house. Ya know, people usually just get a bunch of pink balloons and tie them up out front? I am fine with balloons, but wanted to try something different. Wow, check these out!!

They are ballon flowers! Go HERE if you want to make them, too! Found these babies on Pinterest. Cheap, easy and dang cute! It was really windy the day of the shower (of course!) and so it was hard to capture a good picture. I put one flower balloon on my front door and 2 out front on either side of the garage. It was a cute way to let people know where the party was!!

Homemade Luna Bars

For anyone who knows me, Emily, I like to run. I am not fast or competitive or amazing at it, I just like it. And everytime before I go running I undoubtedly eat a Luna Bar. It is the perfect pre-run/pre-exercise snack. Have you had one? They are super fab and designed just for women. There is not a lot of sugar in them and lots of protein. I haven’t decided if I like the Chocolate Dipped Coconut or White Chocolate Peppermint Bark the best. Since I love the Luna Bars so much I decided to try my hand at making them! This is the Chocolate Dipped Coconut version. And also for anyone who knows me, I am not a health nut. I may be the opposite, in fact. BUT, specifically for this recipe and to keep up with the good nutrition of  the Luna Bar, I used organic or high protein products. I think I just may like the homemade Chocolate Dipped Coconut bars better homemade. Try them, then go exercise off those Double Peanut Butter Blossoms you just made!!

Homemade Luna Bars

  • 3 3/4 cups Rice Crispies cereal (I used a brown rice store brand)
  • 2 Tablespoon almond butter
  • 5 Tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes
  • 4 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoon agave nectar (found in the same place as sugars and artificial sweeteners)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag of semisweet chocolate chips

Put Rice Crispies in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, mix your almond butter, vanilla extract, coconut, coconut oil, agave nectar, and salt. Melt in the microwave (30-60 seconds) or on the stove. Pour the mixture over the cereal and and stir. Make sure to coat all the crispies and smash them with the back of your spoon or fork. Add more crispies if the mixture seems too liquidy and more liquid (coconut oil or almond butter) if it’s not sticking together.Line a square or rectangle pan (I used a 9×9 pan) with wax paper and spread the mixture evenly. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of the mixture and use the bottom of a glass to press the mixture down as firmly as you can. Stick it in the freezer. While your pan is in the freezer, melt your chocolate. I put the chips in a microwaveable bowl and melt on 30 second intervals, stirring after each time. After 30 minutes, bring the bars out of the freezer and coat the top with the melted chocolate. Stick the bars back in the freezer for another 30 minutes. Remove the bars from the pan and slice into about 12 rectangles. Wrap each individual bar in aluminum foil. Keep frozen until your are ready to use!

Linking up at : Lady Behind the Curtain

Christmas Cookie Week

Lucy Jane’s Best is so excited to announce our Christmas Cookie Week! Starting tomorrow, Thursday December 1, we will be posting a great cookie that you can take to a party, bake for your family, take to a cookie exchange or just bake for a neighbor holiday gift! So for 7 days straight you will get a new cookie recipe! You don’t want to miss this! We have some tried and true cookie recipes that will not disappoint! And be sure to join us Monday for an exciting announcement as well!