Chocolate Mayonnaise Sheet Cake

A year ago on April 19th I lost a very special friend, Debra, to cancer.  There was a celebration of life for family and friends  followed by a luncheon.  I made the chocolate mayonnaise sheet cake she loved and decorated it with the monkeys I had bought to use on her birthday cake.  She loved all animals but monkeys were a favorite of hers and always made her smile.  Whenever I saw cute monkey memes I would share them with her and I once gifted her a hideous pink sock monkey that I made.  She adored it.  My first and last attempt at sock monkeys.  Debbie had the gift of gab.  She loved to come down and sit and visit and have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee with a little rum chata in it.  And she had a sweet tooth.  She loved chocolate.  So if there was a cake or cookies or brownies she was a happy girl.  And if there were no baked goods, there was always a dish full of chocolate candy and that’s where she’d head.  I’ll always think of her when I make this cake.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups hot, strong coffee

1 cup cocoa

3 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350.

Whisk together the hot coffee and cocoa and let stand for 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl combine the sugar and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the mayonnaise and vanilla.

Alternate flour mixture and coffee/cocoa mixture beating after each addition and beginning and ending with flour.

Pour the batter into a lightly greased and floured sheet pan.  Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.

To make this cake easier to serve to a crowd I cut the cake, used cupcake lines to separate individual pieces, and then iced each piece.  I made a peanut butter icing but you can use any flavor icing you like.

This post is for you my beautiful friend.  I miss talking to you and enjoying a cup of coffee or tea with you at my kitchen island.  I hope there is a lot of chocolate in heaven.  And monkeys.  A lot of monkeys.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

King Arthur has some really great recipes and this one is no exception.  They called this a Blueberry Breakfast Cake but I think it’s more like a Fruit Danish.  I used blueberries, which the recipe called for, but this would be great with raspberries, apple, peaches…almost any fruit.  Because of the ricotta cheese and sour cream it has a consistency similar to a cream cheese danish.  It is simple to make and not cloying.  Great with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.

Ingredients:

3 large eggs

heaping 1/2 cup of sugar

6 T melted butter

1 cup small curd cottage cheese or part skim ricotta

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup AP flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease an 8” round pan that is at least 2” deep.  If your 8” pan is too shallow, use a 9” round pan or an 8” square.  Shape really doesn’t matter.

Beat the eggs and sugar together.  And yes, a HEAPING 1/2 cup of sugar.  First time I’ve seen that in a recipe.

Add the melted butter, cottage or ricotta cheese, sour cream and vanilla.  Beat until well combined.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder,  add to creamed ingredients, and stir or beat gently until combined.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and scatter berries over the top.

Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out moist but with no obvious smears of raw batter.  The edges should be lightly browned.  It should appear set throughout but jiggle a little when you gently shake it.  Baking time is between 45 and 50 minutes.

Once it comes out of the oven generously sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.  Let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to firm.  Cut into wedges or squares, depending on the pan you used, and serve warm.

Enjoy!

NOTE”. I baked mine in a 9” round pan for 45 minutes.  I recommend checking it after 40 minutes.  Much depends on your oven and the size of your pan.  I will try this with  a combination of apple and cranberries next.  A little bit of sweet and tart together.   Also, the cinnamon sugar is optional.  Instead you might want to lightly dust with powdered sugar as you serve it or make a glaze and drizzle a little over the cake.

Orange Cake

Our Thanksgiving tradition includes a traditional dinner on Thursday with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and rutabaga…and a “theme” dinner on Saturday with my brother Bob and his family.  Our theme Saturdays have typically been eithnic and this year we are doing Finnish food.  Finnish food in honor of my Dad who passed away on New Years Day.  Finnish food to honor our heritage.  I have fond memories of an orange cake that my mummu used to make and I recently found her recipe.  It was written in Finnish.  Well, some Finnish and some Finglish.  I was able to decipher all the ingredients and measurements (pretty proud of that) but I struggled with the directions.  I asked for help from my Finnish Food and Culture site on facebook and they came to my rescue.  Today I did a test run for Saturday’s dinner.

Ingredients:

1 orange (orenssi)

1 cup raisins (rusinaita)

1 cup sugar (sokeri)

2 eggs (munaa)

1/2 cup butter (voita) or lard

3/4 cup of buttermilk (kirnupiimaa)

1 teaspoon baking soda (suuta)

2 cups flour (jauhaja)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Juice the orange and set the juice aside.

Grind the orange peel and the raisins. This was my mummu’s grinder.  Then my dads.  And now it’s mine.  Just trying to make this orange cake authentic!

Cream together the sugar, butter, orange rind and raisins.  Add well beaten eggs.  Also my mummu’s mixer.

Sift together flour and baking soda.  Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk.

The batter will be quite thick.  Spread the batter in a greased 8×8 square pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.  While the cake is cooling combine 1/2 cup of sugar and the juice from the orange.  Bring to a boil and pour over the slightly cooled cake.

Serve the cake as is or with a dollop of whipped cream.  This cake brought back wonderful memories.  And it will be a perfect addition to our Finnish Saturday.

NOTE:  You can grind the raisins and orange peel in your food processor and you can beat your eggs with a whisk.  I was trying to make this the way my grandmother did and she didn’t have my modern appliances.

Don’t check my Finnish.  Remember.  This was written in Finnish AND Finglish.

Double Chocolate Cake

When I’m scrolling through Facebook I see a lot of people posting recipes with pictures that look mouth watering.  So I ask, “have you made that?”  The most frequent response I get is, “no, but I’d like to.”  And then I’m a little leery.  What if someone accidentally left out a key ingredient?   We’ve all seen those pictures of Pinterest fails…recipes or projects that look easy and amazing and when someone attempts to replicate them they bear little resemblance to the original picture.  We had special friends coming for the weekend and a belated birthday to celebrate so when I saw this picture and recipe for a chocolate cake (that the person who posted had not yet made) I decided to give it a try anyway.  I can’t eat chocolate but everyone LOVED the cake and the icing so my efforts were worth the risk.  And I’ll make it again.  The other good thing about this particular recipe is that it made an 8”x8” cake which was the perfect size.

Ingredients:

1 cup AP flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup boiling coffee

Preheat the oven to 325.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Add the egg, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minute.

Gently stir in the boiling coffee.  The batter will be thin.  Pour into an 8”x8” pan that has been greased and floured.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Icing:

1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla

This was the intriguing part.  To me.  I’ve never made an icing like this!  Melt the chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted.  Once the chips are melted stir in the sour cream and vanilla.  Give it a good hard stir for a creamy consistency.

Viola!  You have icing that sets up beautifully.  Almost the consistency of fudge.  I inverted the cake and put it on a plate to ice but you could do it right in the pan.

I garnished the cake with fresh raspberries.  Slice and enjoy!

NOTE:  The cake is super moist.  I put it in the freezer for awhile prior to icing it…it is much easier to frost.  The recipe called for boiling water (or coffee) and I chose to use coffee.

I’m not sure whether this recipe would work doubled and baked in a 9×13 pan or as two layers.  Some recipes work that way, others don’t.

Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

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This stuff is amazing!  Love!

We just returned from a family vacation to New Orleans.  The land of great food, really wonderful music everywhere, and a plentitude of adult beverages.  And people watching.  We enjoyed poboys, gumbo, oysters, shrimp, catfish and, of course, beignets.  As good as our food was, whenever I get home from a vacation I actually kind of enjoy eating my own cooking again.  Funny how that works.

I had some organic milk in the refrigerator that was going to go south in just a day or so and I wanted to put it to good use.  I decided to make us some bread with my remaining milk and came across this recipe that I had clipped from a Saveur magazine early last year but had not tried.  Until today.  The recipe says the bread is Swedish.  But since I’m Finnish, today it is Finnish Cinnamon Cardamom Bread.  Whatever your ethnicity I think you will enjoy!  The kitchen smelled wonderful while this was baking.

Ingredients for the Dough:

7 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups whole milk heated to 115

2 tsp active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups AP flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, lightly crushed

1/4 tsp kosher salt

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Ingredients for Filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

7 T unsalted butter softened

1 T ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely crushed

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To make the dough heat the milk to 115 degrees.  Use a thermometer unless you’re a lot better than I am at estimating temperatures and you don’t want to kill your yeast.  Melt the butter and add the butter and yeast to the warm milk.  Stir and let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cardamom and salt.  Stir in the yeast mixture until dough forms.

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Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.  Or knead in your stand mixer.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.  About an hour.

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Prepare the filling stirring together the softened butter, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom seeds.

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On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into approximately a 11×17 rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.

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Spread the filling over the dough.

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Working from one of the long sides, roll dough into a tight cylinder and transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover with a dish towel and allow it to sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.  About 45-60 minutes.

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Heat the oven to 375.  Using kitchen shears and starting 1 inch from the ends of the dough, make crosswise cuts spaced 1 inch apart, three quarters of the way through the dough.  Now this is where it got tricky for me and my bread looks a little crude.  The recipe says to fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right.  Huh?  The center?  Maybe I was supposed to make this into a circle?  I don’t know for sure because I didn’t have a picture.  But it doesn’t really matter. The fanning does not affect the taste at all.

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Whisk an egg and brush the dough with the egg wash.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Allow the bread to cool before serving.

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I made up a little icing with powdered sugar, heavy cream and lemon zest.  Because we like icing.

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Cut yourself a slice and enjoy.  Great with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

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NOTE:  The recipe suggests that you use the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar before baking.  Since I was going to ice the bread I did not you the pearl sugar but you may prefer that.  If any of you bake a more attractive loaf please comment with a picture.

Raspberry Pie and Pumpkin Pie

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Every Thanksgiving I make a raspberry pie because it is both my Dad and my daughter’s favorite.  And I make a pumpkin pie because I happen to like pumpkin pie and because I just think pumpkin pie is mandatory at Thanksgiving.  The pie on the left was amazing!  The pie on the right.  Well that’s another story.  But I need to backtrack a bit to the crust.  A good crust is the secret to a good pie.  The crust recipe I have is from a dear family friend, Peg Johnson.  She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Home Economics.  She has passed away but she lives on in the margins of my Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.  Penned on page 230, at the top of the Pastry section, is her recipe for Never Fail Pie Crust.

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Remember this book?  I see it in antique stores all the time.  I got mine as a gift in 1971.  It has a burn mark on the back cover and some of the pages stick totgether but I still use it.

Never Fail Pie Crust

3 cups AP flour

1 1/4 cups shortening

1 tsp salt

1 egg well beaten

5 T cold water

1 T white vinegar

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Cut the shortening into the flour.  Peg used a pastry cutter.  I use my food processor.

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Combine the beaten egg, water and vinegar.  Pour liquid into flour mixture all at once.  Blend with a spoon until flour is well moistened.

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Divide the dough into 3 equal discs.  The dough can be rolled out immediately or can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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You might be able to get four crusts from this recipe but I give myself a little wiggle room for bad edges or other rolling difficulties.  Roll the crust out on a lightly floured surface and line the bottom of the pie pan with the crust.

Preheat the oven to 350.

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Raspberry Filling:

6 cups raspberries

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2 T cornstarch

2 T tapioca

2 T butter

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Combine the raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and tapioca in a large bowl and gently stir.  Allow them to sit for 10 minutes or so.  Pour the berries into the prepared pie crust.  Cut butter into small pats and put on top of the raspberry filling.

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Roll out the top crust, cut slits with a paring knife,  and crimp the edges.  Sprinkle with a little white sugar.  Bake for 50-55 minutes until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.  To avoid drips in your oven put the pie on a cookie sheet lined with foil.

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Mmmmmmm.  This pie was great!  Served with a little whipping cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Now let’s talk about that pumpkin pie.  I had purchased a couple of little sugar pumpkins that I used for fall table decorations and decided to make them into my traditional pumpkin pie.  Waste not, want not.

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As I was seeding these little babies and getting them ready to roast to fork tender goodness in the oven my dad said, can’t you buy pumpkin in a can?  I said, of course I can but this will be homemade.  From scratch.  It will be better than pumpkin in a can!  I should have listened to my dad and retrieved a can of pumpkin from my pantry.  Mistake number one.

Preheat oven to 400.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 cups pumpkin

12 oz can evaporated milk

2 beaten eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ginger

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg or mace

1 tsp cloves

1 T flour

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Quarter the pumpkins, scrape the seeds and arrange on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment.  Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until fork tender.  Once the pumpkin is done scrape the meat into a bowl and discard the skins.

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Purée the pumpkin in a food processor.

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Doesn’t this look beautiful!??  Mistake number two.  I should have tasted the pumpkin at this point.  But I did not.

Combine the pumpkin with the egg, evaporated milk, brown sugar, flour and spices and whisk together until well combined.  Pour into the prepared crust.

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I had scraps of crust left over so I copied a friend’s idea and cut little leaves out with a cookie cutter and lined the edge.  I actually had to add the fancy crust pieces part way through the baking process because the filling is too runny initially.  Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the crust comes out clean.

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There is no picture of this pie on a plate with whipping cream.  I ate a small slice and proclaimed it too awful for human consumption.  However, this is a good recipe for pumpkin pie provided that you use 2 cups of canned pumpkin.  Next year I’ll listen to my Dad.

NOTE:  In the future I will use my little sugar pie pumpkins for table decorations only and I will use Libby’s pumpkin for my pie.

 

 

Sugar and Cinnamon Glazed Nuts

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My friend Georgia and I have gotten together in December for a baking marathon for over 30 years.  We have several cookies and candies that are staples each year.  Friends and family  have their favorites and we try to keep everyone happy.  But we also like to change things up a little.  Try something new.  This year we decided to omit one of our standard cookies (thumb prints) and make these candied nuts.  We are both very glad that we did!  They are easy to make and the house smells amazing while they’re in the oven.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews)

2/3 cups of melted butter

2 cups sugar

3 T cinnamon

2 tsp salt

4 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 250.  Beat the egg whites with the salt until they are frothy.  Gradually add in the vanilla and sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in the nuts and the cinnamon.  You can use a wooden spoon or your hands making sure that the nuts are all coated.  Add the melted butter and stir to coat.  It will look like a mess.  And you’ll wonder if I omitted an essential ingredient or a step in the process.  Have faith.

Pour the nuts out onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  I used a large jelly roll pan with sides. Place in the oven and bake for one hour stirring every 15 minutes.  This is when the kitchen starts to smell really amazing.

Pour the nuts out onto parchment paper or foil to cool.  Store in zip lock bags or sealed containers.  Enjoy!

We used almonds and walnuts because that is what we had but I think pecans and cashews would also be excellent.

NOTE:  Recipes for most all of our standard cookies are on my blog under Christmas Cookies.

Fruit Tarts aka Individual Fruit Pizzas

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I have made “fruit pizza” for  desserts for years.  It gives one the illusion or delusion of a “healthy” dessert, it looks pretty, and it’s easy to make.   And, for me, it brings back fond memories of a dear friend who made this dessert for us with white peaches and blueberries.  I decided this time around to make individual tarts rather than making the dessert in a pizza or jelly roll pan.  The dessert has a sugar cookie base.  You can make your own sugar cookie dough and cut out shapes or you can buy already prepared Pillsbury sugar cookie dough which is what I did.  I baked the cookies the night before and baked them a little longer than recommended to help crisp them up so they wouldn’t get soggy.  If you’re using a pizza or jelly roll pan, pat the dough (an 18 oz tube of sugar cookie dough) evenly into an ungreased pan and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Allow it to cool completely before moving on to the next step.

You can use whatever fruits you choose.  I would recommend using fresh rather than previously frozen fruit.  I used blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, and mandarine oranges.  Or you can use white peaches and blueberries like my friend did.  I liked the combination to be colorful.

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Once the base has been baked and cooled prepare the next layer.

Ingredients:

8 oz package of cream cheese at room temperature

8 oz container of mascarpone cheese at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

8 oz container of coolwhip

1 tsp vanilla extract

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Combine all of the ingredients, cream together, and spread a generous spoonful on each cookie or distribute over the cookie base.

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Next wash and pat your fruit dry.  My blackberries and grapes were rather large so I cut those in half.   Place the fruit on the cream filling.

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Lastly I add a fruit juice glaze.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

3 T cornstarch

1 cup orange juice (I used orange mango)

1/4 cup pineapple juice

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Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a small sauce pan.  Add the juices and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken.  Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to cool completely before brushing it on the fruit.  I use a little pastry brush.  There you have it.  A beautiful little sweet treat that you’d be proud to serve your guests.

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The individual fruit tarts were a first for me but I think I will continue to make them this way in the future.  While it’s a little fussier and more time consuming I think the presentation is best!

NOTE:  If you are starting with 24 cookies half the cream filling and glaze are sufficient.  You might just want to cut both recipes in half.

 

Chocolate Brownies

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Almost everyone loves brownies. We attended a 4th of July party yesterday and almost every year I’m asked to bring chocolate chip cookies and brownies.

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This brownie recipe is very rich and fudgy.  If you usually make brownies from a mix this recipe will hopefully change your mind. I’ve been making these brownies for years and they are always a hit.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

4 oz bar of semi-sweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

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Preheat your oven to 350.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat melt the butter and chocolate. Watch carefully to ensure that you do not to over heat the chocolate.

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As soon as the butter and chocolate are melted remove from the heat. In the same pan stir in all of sugar.

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Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition.

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Stir in the flour and add the vanilla.

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Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan. Or one lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes.

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Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares. To make this batch of brownies even more chocolatey I sprinkled them with 1 cup of milk chocolate chips once they were baked and returned the pan to the oven for a couple more minutes. Once the chips were melted I used a knife to spread them out and put a half pecan on top to dress them up. They are also good with seedless raspberry jam spread over the top while they are still warm and then drizzled with melted white chocolate.  Whatever you do to the brownies they are great served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge sauce. Cube them up, freeze them and use them in your chocolate fondue or with a chocolate fountain.

Enjoy!

Rhubarb, Strawberry, Apple Crisp

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After making three batches of strawberry jam I had strawberries left and I decided to make a crisp with berries, rhubarb and apples. One of my dad’s and my daughter’s favorite pies is strawberry rhubarb so I know they have both loved this dessert.  Easy to make and great served warm with some ice cream or fresh whipping cream.

Ingredients:

3 cups diced rhubarb

2 cups strawberries hulled and halved

1 cup peeled and diced apple

1 cup granulated sugar

3 T flour

zest of one lemon

1 tsp cinnamon

fresh grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar packed

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 cup melted butter

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Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl combine fruit, granulated sugar, lemon zest and 3 T flour. Toss to combine and pour into an 8×10 baking dish.

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In the same bowl you tossed the fruit around in add the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and butter for the crisp and mix to combine.

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Using your hands crumble the crisp ingredients over the fruit.

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Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes. The fruit should be bubbling and the crisp should be a golden brown.

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No pictures of us enjoying this dessert. Shortly after it came out of the oven I covered it with foil, wrapped it in a bath towel and took it to a friend’s house for dessert. It was amazing if I do say so myself. My Dad and daughter would have been in dessert heaven. I whipped up some fresh cream and brought it along to top the crisp.

NOTE:  I learned a simple and time saving tip for whipping cream from one of my many food magazines.   If you have an immersion blender put the heavy cream and a little granulated sugar into a quart jar and after a few spins of the immersion blender you have perfect whipped cream. No cream splatter on the counter and easy to store in the fridge or transport to serve with dessert.