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Happy Blonde Brownie Day!

Happy Blonde Brownie Day!

Blonde brownie up close

Did you know that there was a blonde brownie day?

 

Neither did I, but there it is and it happens to fall on today – January 22.

 

I found this tid bit of info out while surfing around the web looking for random food intell.  While it is not a national holiday I thought celebration of the brownie in either form to be wonderful inspiration for a morning of baking and a chance to learn some food history. 

 

“Blondies” are thought to have been baked and enjoyed before the brownies full of chocolate flavor we love today.  Food historians believe this based on cookbooks.  I bet you have never considered your collection of cookbooks to be a contemporary historical of the gastronomical enjoyments of our time – but it truly is. 

 

These aged cookbooks show the major ingredients of “blondies” were butter, and brown sugar – like the components of butterscotch candies which were well enjoyed in the mid nineteenth century.  There were cookbooks whose directions showed a mixture of butterscotch candy ingredients mixed with flour and a leavening agent.

 

Historians seem to agree that chocolate flavored brownies came into popularity in the twentieth century’s start when mass production of cocoa and chocolate became widely available and much more affordable. 

 

Knowing all of this I sat down this morning and wrote a recipe for Blonde Brownies that I really like.  The smell was delicious in the house and the taste was fantastic. 

Blonde brownie1

Blonde Brownie Day Brownies 

Ingredients

6 Tbsps of Unsalted Butter

2 Tbsps of Mascarpone Cheese

1 Tbsp of Milk (I used Skim)

1 Cup of Light Brown Sugar

1 Egg Beaten

1 Cup of Sifted Flour + 1 Tbsp (I used All Purpose)

½ Tsp Baking Powder

2 Tsps of Vanilla

½ Cup of Finely Chopped Walnuts

1/8 Tsp Salt

4 Tbsps Chopped Hershey’s Chocolate Bar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

 

Butter and flour (I use the Crisco + flour spray) an 8×8 cake pan and set aside.

 

Combine the butter, mascarpone, and milk in a sauce pan over low heat (I use a heat diffuser to ensure that the dairy products won’t scorch) till butter and mascarpone melts.  Once this happens remove from heat.

 

Add the light brown sugar (you can use dark but I enjoy the light color maintained by the light color of the sugar), beaten egg, and vanilla until combined thoroughly. 

 

Combine the flour (minus the one extra tablespoon), baking powder, and salt into the now wet sugar mixture.

 

Take the extra tablespoon of flour and toss with the walnuts (I picked this up from Ina Garten that this will help suspend the nuts or chocolate evenly throughout).  Now incorporate the nuts and flour into the mixture.  Stir well.

 

Pour into the 8×8. 

 

In half of my brownies I placed the chopped chocolate on the top of the brownie for my friend who enjoys chocolate mixed into her “blondies” as many people do.  I wanted mine “pure”.

 

Bake for 25-29 minutes based on your oven – of course check for a clean toothpick or knife.

 

Let the pan cool and then slice into bars or 2x2s.

Blonde brownie 2

So make brownies blonde or otherwise and enjoy – after all it is a holiday.

 

Thanks to http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq.html#blondies – for the history facts.

How Hot/Cold Bags Brought Silence to My Food Journeys

Hot/Cold Bag

Have you seen these Hot/Cold bags before at the store?  I had noticed them hanging off of freezer door handles for over a year before I broke down and bought one.  I was shopping an hour south of home and located a flavor of sherbet my father had been desperately seeking for months; I knew I had to bring some home.  I didn’t have high hopes for the bag but I hoped it would at least keep the product somewhat cool so that dad could have some cold soup by the time I reached home.

 

To my amazement when I arrived home it was as rock solid as frozen delights are usually found at the store.  Still I was not immediately converted.  My mother had taught me that if I knew I was shopping a distance from home that I should always bring a cooler with me.  While this may seem silly to some up in New Hampshire where I live the closest grocery store is a fifteen minute drive and it’s not even the “good” one.

The problem with this is I hate having to get the cooler and clean it, never mind the clanging it makes as it sways drunkenly around the back of the car.  So for a very long time I shopped at the sub-par establishment and cooked a simple routine of dishes. 

On a whim I broke from tradition and decided to give the Hot/Cold bag a shot.  I made a week’s list of foods and off I went thirty minutes south to have a shot at fresh produce and people who actually know what cuts of beef I’m talking about. 

I have to admit that I shopped a little shyly planning on purchasing milk and other generic cold items closer to home, but I shopped unabashedly at the meat counter picking up pancetta, and some chicken.  When I reached the produce section I was near tears at the beauty and quality of the vegetables.  I greedily grabbled large bunches of greens, asparagus, herbs, and lettuces not having any plan as how to incorporate them into my menu for the week.  I was like a woman marooned on an island only able to eat fish for years and finally able to sink her teeth into a prime cut of beef.

At the checkout my checkbook was unhappy but I refused to let it upset the delirious high I was on.  Out at my car I placed all of my cold items carefully into my special bag and made sure each of the snaps clicked.  I placed the bag in a foot well to prevent unnecessary bouncing and ran episodes of the Food Network through my mind trying to think of what to do with my bounty.

It’s been over two years since that escapade into the Hot/Cold bag territory and I’ve never looked back.  I mention it to all of my friends and relatives as a great piece of equipment.  Just stick it next to the front door and take it back to the car next time and you’re ready to shop at a moments notice – you don’t need ice – you don’t need heat packs, it simply works with the heat or cold from the items in the bag.  For the ware and tare you get out of each bag I say its well worth the small investment and in the end when they need to be turned out to pasture they don’t owe you a cent.

Best of all – they don’t clang in the back of my car.

What Amanda Is Eating This Weekend

Amanda's Meal This Weekend

Amanda loves pork.

Amanda really loves potatoes.

Amanda isn’t really a fan of vegetables.

So I have to walk a fine line all the time with her, but it’s worth it for me because it’s a chance to learn for me. 

The stars were aligned for this meal this weekend.  Not only had it been a few weeks in between pork dishes but pork chops were only sale at the market I like to frequent.  To top that I received a supply of four new cookbooks in the mail this week, one of them being Giada De Laurentiis – Giada’s Family Dinners (which I had been hoping would be under the tree for Christmas). 

While I was reading the book I came across page 96, and Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops. 

Had I mentioned that Amanda loves cheese?

Well Amanda loves cheese.

So I saw it as fortuitous and decided to plan a meal around the sale product and the flavor in Giada’s recipe.  My first thought was rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes spears.  I was banking on this thought while I was at the grocery store, but I came across some lovely yellow and orange peppers that I decided if I pan fried with a bit of olive oil and finished with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar in the pan for the last minute of cooking would provide a tang as well as a great color to the plate.   Picking up the peppers I knew that would have to change my idea for potatoes because as my mother had always taught me I shouldn’t have multiple items of the same size and shape on a plate.  Creamy mashed potatoes dressed with nothing more than real butter, milk, salt, and pepper is a delicious canvas for the pork and the peppers to rest on and texturally it shakes up and lands along nothing else I’ve set aside for her dish. 

I like to try and get two vegetables on any plate I make.  This way I can give two different flavors and my hope is to never bore people with my side dishes.  So to go with the parmesan pork I thought onions caramelized in butter tossed with green peas would make a wonderful addition.

With almost all dishes that I make I’m asked for some sauce, but I also know that Amanda is conscious of her weight.  So I decided to go for something high in flavor and low in gravy laden fat.

Mushroom No-Gravy  Ingredients

1 – 8 ounce package Cremini Mushrooms

1 – 8 ounce package Shitake Mushrooms

2 tsps butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions

Clean off and dice all of the mushrooms

Heat a medium skillet over med-low heat.  Add the butter and olive oil.  Once the pan is heated add cleaned and diced mushrooms.  Do not add salt and pepper yet as it will stop the mushrooms from obtaining the rich brown color of pan gravy we are looking for.  Sautee the mushrooms for several minutes (everyone’s cook tops are different mine took about six minutes) till they have reached the deep brown then salt and pepper to taste.  Cook another minute.

Serve warm over whatever you wish.

Add it all together and you get Saturday and Sunday’s suppers for my friend Amanda.

All About Me and My History of Food

I grew up loving food.  Absolutely everything involved from the food prep to actual consumption fascinated me.  It still does.

This was fostered by my mother’s love for cooking.  I grew up not far from Johnson and Whales College ( NowUniversity) where my mother began taking classes on the weekends while I was five or so and while she studied and hard and graduated with a degree in Food Science more of my memories are wrapped around her cooking at home.

Julia Child is the first person I remember hearing the word Chef in reference too.  For a short time (until Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey, and others) I thought this was an exclusive adjective for her.  I would sit on the floor next to my mother’s brown chair and watch as she painstakingly wrote down the recipes we watched these chefs create on yellow legal paper for her to try her hand at later.  If I look through her cook books I guarantee that I would find some faded recipes from the eighties.

My fist job in the kitchen was staying busy and out of my mother’s hair.  To provide me some accessories my mother would supply me with a small sauce pot, wooden spoon, and an unopened can of tuna.  I would sit on the laminated floor and conduct my cooking show.  By the time my mother was done with her one meal I had several episodes in the can!

As I grew my mother learned that I could be taught to be an efficient prep help.  I was taught proper knife skills and thus became my love for disassembling products.  I enjoy the controlled chaos of it – taking a yellow pepper and slicing into it with a battle plan to remove the unnecessary ribs, and to shape into uniform dice. 

Moving from kitchen prep work my first culinary masterpiece was mac and cheese with tuna fish and peas mixed in.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the dish but my grandmother loved it and my mother was comfortable with me making it away from her watchful eyes.   

Now I had developed a true love for cooking.  I love to be able to create a dish based on a mood I’m in or to recall a memory from my youth through the smells and tastes no matter where I am.  I cook everyday.  I tend toward simple foods for myself because I get to experiment through my job as a personal chef for my client Amanda. 

I’m very excited to share my food and love for food with you here – please share with me.