Sunday, December 18, 2011

Double Iced Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies

**Warning** Prepare yourselves for a full blown sugar coma!

I've started on my Christmas baking for the second time this month. I made cookies and brownies at the beginning of the month, but they only lasted a matter of days. Being with a chocoholic/cookie monster does not allow for goodies to stay in my cupboards for very long. So baking a second time was very much in order!

This recipe was modified by myself from several different recipes all over the internet. I've struggled with it in the past, and have now made it to pure perfection! I hope your household enjoys them as much as mine does :)


1 Cup butter
2 1/4 Cups sugar
4 Large eggs
1 1/4 Cups baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 Cups flour
2 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Cup chopped walnuts (optional)

What to do:

  • Preheat your oven to 350F (I have to put mine to 300 because I have a ghetto oven that does not know it's own temperature) and lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan (I put parchment paper on after I have greased the pan, and then grease the top of the parchment paper. This allows for an easy-peasy clean up)
  • In a microwave safe bowl, combine sugar and butter and heat until butter is melted (approx. 2 minutes). Mix, and then continue to heat for another 90 seconds - 2 minutes until you have a nice frothy/bubbly coating. Make sure that it does not come to a boil, so keep an eye on it! Why this step you ask? This makes for a nice shiny top on the brownies in case you are not into icing them.
  • In a separate, large bowl, mix eggs, cocoa, salt, baking powder and vanilla until smooth. I use a hand mixer for this.. a Kitchenaid would be fabulous (it's on my Christmas wish list ;))
  • Add the hot butter/sugar mixture and stir until smooth
  • Add flour, and again, beat until smooth. Now add the nuts and chocolate chips. (If you want your chips to be evident in the brownies versus completely melted in, allow your batter to cool for 20 minutes before you add them in)
  • Spoon your batter into the greased pan. Shake the pan like a Polaroid so your batter gets distributed evenly into every nook and cranny.
  • Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and it comes out clean. Keep an eye on them, as you do not want the edges to burn.
  • Allow the brownies to fully cool

Now comes the fun (and tedious) task of making the icing!

Ingredients for mint icing:

5 Tablespoons softened butter
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
2 1/3 Cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract
Green food coloring
3 Tablespoons milk

What to do:

  • Combine softened butter, salt, corn syrup and icing sugar in a bowl. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Do not panic if it doesn't get smooth and fluffy. Sometimes my ingredients at this step resembles dough pieces the size of rice.
  • Add mint extract and food coloring. 1-2 drops is good. I like mine a little more green, so I tend to add about 6.
  • Gradually stir in milk one tablespoon at a time, then beat until fluffy and beautiful. This may or may not resemble toothpaste.

Now to ice those brownies! Take a rubber spatula and evenly distribute all the icing to every inch of brownie goodness. Once iced, place the brownies in the freezer to allow icing to harden before you put on the second layer of icing. This step is very necessary, otherwise your icings will mix together, and you will be swearing and throwing a fit, wishing that you would have.

While your brownies are in the freezer, start making your next batch of icing.

Ingredients for chocolate icing:

4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 Cups icing sugar
2 Tablespoons baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla

What to do:

  • In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then add the milk. Bring mixture to a boil and remove from heat.
  • Sift together cocoa and icing sugar. Blend into sugar mixture, and add vanilla.

This icing sets up f.a.s.t!

Remove your brownies from the freezer and start icing them from a corner and quickly making your way around the pan. If your icing starts to harden in your saucepan, simply place it back on the stove, and voila! it's smooth and spreadable again.

Once your brownies are all iced, cut them into squares and remove from pan. Remember, since you used parchment paper, your brownies will just slide on out! Store in an air tight container and enjoy :)

    They are best served heated in the microwave and enjoyed with a glass of milk. Delicious!

    Until next time..

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Stop peeing on my couch!

    Cats have always been a part of my life. I adore their cuddles, their friendly meows and their soothing purrs. Nothing is better than coming home from a hard day and having my kitties walk figure eights through my legs and look at me with loving stares.

    When things go bad with cats, however, it always seems like the end of the world, and you are left with the questions, why me? why my cat?

    My cat had been peeing literally everywhere for (what seemed almost every day, but was more weekly) the past four months. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I automatically started to panic and dollar signs danced in my head as I Bing'ed every potential cause of this highly annoying problem.

    First thing first, we brought her in to the vet to run a series of tests - urinalysis, blood work, ultra sounds, you name it! We had to start with what would be the most obvious cause, kidney stones or bladder infection.

    All the results came back negative. This was great news, but also left us with the unanswered question.. Why is she doing this?

    I then began to be much more visual around the house and paying attention to her behaviour and where the pee was. I noticed that she would pee around any open area to the outdoors (windows, doors, and furniture around these areas).

    I also realized that there had been a new cat in the neighborhood that decided that this area was his turf, and had been jumping over on to our balcony and terrorizing my ladies through the sliding glass door.

    I automatically put two and two together. My little lady was being territorial and spraying, trying to tell this cat to F-off and that this was ours and only our territory. I know what you are thinking, a female cat that sprays? Yes. I know, I was surprised too. I had never before heard of a female cat spraying.

    We literally tried everything to deter this horrible nuisance, from blocking off all the windows with cardboard, to buying anti-feline spray to deter her from her usual marking spots (one being peeing on our $2000 couch.. yeaaaa).

    Absolutely nothing was successful.

    I had a lot of "encouraging suggestions" that maybe I should get rid of my cat. No. That was in no way an option. When you take on the responsibility of owning a pet, you are also agreeing to all the headaches they come with, let that be large vet bills, ruined furniture, pooh, pee or vomit. EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. If you are not willing to deal with all the headaches that comes with owning a pet, then don't get one.It's as simple as that. Pets are for life.

    After many sleepless nights and crying episodes from finding yet another pee spot on the couch, we have finally solved the problem. Perhaps it is just luck, but I like to think that I played a role in stopping this horrendous behaviour.

    So, how did we do it? First thing, get rid of the problem ie. the "other" cat. I got so pissed off one day when he jumped over to our balcony, that I chased the damn thing away and down the alley way throwing rocks to scare him away for good (calm down animal activists, I wasn't throwing rocks AT him). Next, my little lady now sleeps in the bathroom at night with a little beddie, food, water and a litter box. And honestly? She loves it. Every single night, she runs to the bathroom, jumps in her beddie and starts kneading the feather blanket as if she is getting ready for bed. She loves her "room." Also, whenever I leave the house, I now put a blanket on the couch. So now when I come home, I come home to my kitty sleeping on the couch, opposed to peeing on it.

    Hopefully no one else is suffering from this same problem. And if you are, hopefully my story has been able to aid you in solving your dilemma. I know it is hard, and sometimes the idea of kicking our pets to the curb seems like a good idea at them time, but there is always a solution. If a cat is capable of starting something, they are more than capable of stopping. Patience is a virtue people! Patience, patience, patience.

    Until next time..

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Cream of Broccoli Soup

    With the cold weather pressing against us, it's not surprising that I have been very busy in the kitchen lately with both baking and cooking.

    Soup is one of those things that is both wholesome and necessary for this time of the year. It's amazing how a bowl of hot, hearty soup can warm you from head to toe after a day out in the chilly air.

    This week, I decided to veer from my usual turkey and rice soup, and instead went with one of my favorites, cream of broccoli; any cream soup, really, is just simply a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

    So, here you have it!

    What you need

    2 Tbsp Butter
    1 Chopped Onion
    1 Clove Garlic (or more if you'd like)
    1 Stalk Celery, Chopped
    3 Cups Chicken Broth
    8 Cups Broccoli florets (basically fill a produce bag. Don't panic if you do not exactly have 8 cups)

    3 Tbsp Butter
    3 Tbsp Flour
    2 Cups Milk
    Ground black pepper
    Grated Cheddar Cheese

    What you do

    Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a soup pot, and add onion and celery. Sautee until veggies are soft. Add chicken broth and broccoli, cover, and let simmer until broccoli is tender, approximately 10 minutes.

    Pour into blender. This step will take a little bit of patience. Only fill the blender half way, making sure that you have both broccoli and broth. Hold down lid with a folded tea towel so you don't burn your fingies! Pulse a few times before fully blending the green monster. Blend into desired consistency. Since you are blending in portions, have a large mixing bowl to put the blended soup in to.

    Wash or rinse out soup pot you used to cook up this deliciousness and put back on stove over medium heat and essentially make a roux. Melt 3 Tbsp of butter, and then add 3 Tbsp flour. Mix until smooth and bubbly. Add milk 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until thickened. Add broccoli concoction to this creamy goodness.

    Et Voila!

    Serve with ground pepper, salt and a generous amount of grated cheddar cheese.

    NOTE: The color of the soup is a lot more green than most cream of broccoli soups. Don't freak out, you didn't do anything wrong. I think Campbell's Soup has permanently ruined our view of what real soup should look like.
    Recipe easily doubles, and freezes nicely :)

    Original recipe taken from here

    Until next time..