Best brownies, hands down

Best brownies, hands down

For Father’s Day, I made RM a pan of brownies.  They are the best ones I have ever made and I have made a ton of brownies over the years.  Traditional ones, blonde ones, from a mix, from scratch, and none of them measured up to this recipe.

The secret is in the quality of the ingredients.

  1. Order these chocolate chunks from Amazon  Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks
  2. Order this cocoa from King Arthur Flour Black Cocoa
  3. Use farm fresh eggs, find a farmer friend or be a friend of a friend with a farmer, or go to a local farmer’s market on Saturday
  4. All purpose flour, I like King Arthur brand
  5. Vanilla paste versus vanilla in a jar

Here is the recipe modified from one published on King Arthur’s website.

  • 4 large farm fresh eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups black cocoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder (you can omit but it does give a nice kick)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 T vanilla paste
  • 1 cup of melted coconut oil (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups of the chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan.  This recipe makes a lot!

Beat the eggs with cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder for a minute or so.  Melt the coconut oil (I did mine in microwave because it’s hard to get out of the jar), add the sugar and stir it until the mixture is hot and shiny in consistency.

Add the hot sugar mixture to the cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.

Add the flour, then the chips.  Spoon into the pan and bake for 30 minutes, no longer.  The brownies will feel set on the edges, and the center will look moist.  Allow to cool and then cut into squares.  Try not to eat them all in one sitting.  I divided my squares into batches in plastic containers with lids and sent them off with RM to his job and I took a batch for my colleagues as well.  Delicioso!

Urban Gardening in the Fort

Urban Gardening in the Fort

Texas summers are hot, hot, hot so gardening for us urban dwellers living in Fort Worth, Texas, is challenging with the intense heat and lack of rain for several months in a row.  This year, RM and I installed a sprinkler system as well as a comprehensive drip system even for the bird bath (see picture below) to provide for consistent watering for all of the containers and small beds in our city backyard oasis.

We have three large stock tanks, converted to container gardens, full of potatoes and fava beans along with fabric bags of purple long beans, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. After I harvest the potatoes in July, we will plant okra that thrives on the heat of August and September.  I like these fabric bags because I can move them around if the spot is too hot or gets too much sun as the summer months progress.  I can also cover them easily with shade cloth as the August heat wave approaches. It can reach temperatures of 110 degrees which is brutal for just about any plant.

Yellow Cannas come back every Year

I love cooking as well as gardening so we have planted fresh herbs throughout the garden including basil, lemon sage, thyme, lavender, cilantro, oregano and parsley.

purple pole beans
Purple long beans, great in stir fry

We have a bird feeder and several bird baths to attract a wide variety of native birds including pairs of cardinals and chick-a-dees.  RM loves to build little houses to line our wooden fence to encourage our feathered friends to nest their young in the spring — we have several species that are repeat house guests over the years. Three months ago, I planted a fig tree in hopes of it bearing fruit next year.  It already has a small fig budding out and has tripled in size since I planted it.

Iris bed with hardy hibiscus (pink and white flowers) and the fig

This year, with the introduction of more consistent watering, we have some little brown frogs and also a few blue dragon flies hanging around the canna as well as an abundance of bees.  We also have a wide variety of lizards some black, some vivid green with red throats and others spotted and horned.  They keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Baby eggplant

For mother’s day, RM bought me a small transportable composter which we are just now introducing the contents to our garden.  Since RM is an avid woodturner, I always have lots of sawdust to add to the beds and containers to help the plants retain moisture and discourage pests. It serves the same purpose as mulch. Relaxing in the garden with our little backyard cat —  who is approaching 14 years of age — is what I do best especially early in the morning before the temperatures get too warm. Happy urban gardening!

Cat, backyard view of our screened porch and yard, come sit a while


I learned to ski about the same time I learned to ride a bike.  A friend of my father’s owned a ski boat. Together, they bought me my own pair of tiny, child-sized skies, dropped me off in the middle of muddy Lake Arrowhead one summer day in south central Kansas, and taught me to ski.

It took a couple of attempts as my teachers  were using too much thrust on the boat throttle and the speed was literally pulling me over onto my face before I could stand up.  The drivers soon found the “sweet spot”,  barely revving up the motor and I popped up on top of the water.  I was skiing. It was pure joy when I mastered it along with learning to ski on one or slalom.

I so loved the thrill of skiing around and around the lake, jumping wakes, crisscrossing patterns with my brother in tandem skiing, and feeling the pull of the rope on the back of my arms.  The crashes were epic too especially at high speeds  –  I often toppled over and over against the surface of the water not sure which way was up.  Too bad we didn’t have cell phones back then to capture some of those wipeouts.  I would ski so long that I could barely pull myself up the ladder to get back in the boat when my turn was up.

All of us Hauck kids skied, taking turns driving the boat, fetching gear, and mastering different tricks. We all learned to back the trailer with the ski boat down the ramp into the lake as well as back the trailer with boat into our rather narrow driveway. Learning to back a trailer has been an invaluable skill to me as an adult as well as knowing how to drive a stick shift and maneuver a boat in the water and onto a trailer. It was a confidence building for me as young woman. Thanks, Dad, for making me do it.

dad on lake
My dad and his boat circa 1978

A lazy day on the lake was what summer as a kid was all about for me. As a teenager in the 70’s, my dad and I spent lots of quality dad/daughter time over at Lake Perry, west of Topeka, Kansas, skiing the lazy summer days away.  My dad didn’t like to fish but he loved to drive the boat and pull me and my friends around and around that lake.  Some days the lake was choppy but when we got out there early before the crowds, it was often so slick, you could see yourself in the reflection of the water.  Kansas lake water is not clear, but brown, so I imagined a vat of apple butter under me as my skies sliced through the lake surface.   I see food in everything.

I taught RM to ski after we met in college and later as a family we often skied on  reunions together or when we came home for a visit during the summer.  Eventually, when our girls were little, Dad’s old boat just wouldn’t chug anymore and we gave up skiing for other priorities and interests.  But my days skiing with my Dad were some of the best.  I miss skiing  and I miss Dad.  Happy Father’s Day to all you dad’s out there.


3 Days in Springfield MO

3 Days in Springfield MO

The American Eagle plane touched down in Springfield, MO, a perfect Saturday morning for flying, we met outside security, to connect with my long-time gal pal, Trisha. We picked up my pink overnight bag, and immediately headed down Hi-Way 60 and across 65 to Mansfield, MO, to the site of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum.

We purchased tickets for the museum as well as tours of the old white farmhouse and the Rock House, a Sears’ plan called “the Mitchell”, both locations where Laura wrote many of the Little House on the Prairie books. Those of us of a certain age growing up in the Midwest remember these books depicting rural life in our neck of the woods — I own the nine volume set myself — as some of the first books we loved to read and reread during our elementary school days.  I would read one book in a setting.  The Rocky Ridge Farm is picturesque with lots of old hardwood trees and rolling pastures; however, the apple orchard described in her books didn’t make it through the dust bowl era.  The museum is new as is the welcome center and of course, they have a great gift shop full of memorabilia, books written by both Laura and her equally talented daughter, Rose.

After the tour,  we trekked on down the road to discover our next great female figure in the literary arts from these parts.  Her name is Rose O’Neill and her homestead, named Bonniebrook, located near Branson, originally built-in stages beginning in 1898, later painstakingly reconstructed from old photos and interviews with family and from the fading memories of prior visitors. The original home burned to the ground in 1947, long after Rose’s death. The replica home, complete with Rose’s studio on third floor,  is now open for tours (closes at 3 p.m. so plan accordingly) as well as  offering a gift shop and small museum featuring the artist’s illustrations and paintings.  Rose O’Neill is most famous for the creation of the Kewpie but I quickly learned that she was a pioneering female illustrator, poet, novelist and activist

The Kewpie museum is a testament to the marketing genius of Rose O’Neill. The museum houses antique Kewpie ephemera of O’Neill’s era. From dolls to door knockers, you will see hundreds of Kewpie items that were sold during the Kewpie boom which swept the world in the early 20th Century.  But of most interest to me were her sketches from greek mythology including fairies, giants and trolls.  Rose wore long flowing velvet caftans to avoid wearing a corset (which she found so disadvantageous to women) and surrounded herself with artists of all types, many not as talented as Rose but she never turned anyone away.

The best quote I read of hers was that she said she was often asked by other artists to critique their work, and she avoided any comments as she said “it was too cruel to crush a kitten.”  Her unconditional love of family and friends and the Depression resulted in her losing all of her money and ending up poor again and her beloved Bonniebrook crumbling around her, unable to pay for basic repairs.

That early summer evening, after driving back to Springfield, exhausted from the day of traveling,  sightseeing, reflection and me, a little bleary-eyed from a cough and congestion, we opted for conversation on the porch, a glass of Merlot and to bed by 9 p.m.

The next day, we ate a healthy, fresh, breakfast at First Watch. If you haven’t checked out this place for breakfast it is always consistently good and fresh.  I opted for the Eggs Benedict Florentine and my friend selected steel oats with fresh fruit and a blueberry muffin.  This fortified us for several hours of touring the Springfield Art Museum which is free to the public and sits next to a pretty park for picnicking if you like.  We toured the temporary exhibit featuring more of Rose’s work called:  Frolic of the Mind: The Illustrious Life of Rose O’Neill

From the curator:  This exhibit takes as its underlying theme the unification of all of O’Neill’s creative pursuits and examines how they each were related, one to the other, from her hundreds of illustrations for the major periodicals of the day to her many illustrated advertisements, from her creation of the Kewpie doll to her more secretive “Sweet Monster” drawings. Each of these are rooted in the singular mind of Rose O’Neill – a woman who created a life on her own terms with sheer will, determination and creative talent. The ability to pursue all of her interests, in spite of the strict social rules placed upon women at the turn of the century, is perhaps the most fascinating story of them all. Rose O’Neill, the twice-divorced suffragist lived a life unbound, an iconoclast, and a rebel among reformers – yet she was beloved by nearly all who knew her.  

Trisha hosted an intimate cocktail party that evening in her home to introduce me to some of  her Springfield girlfriends — which I all quite adored.  Of course, several were fellow Kansans and Texans so what’s not to love.  The shrimp cocktail and wine pairings were sublime.

The final morning  of my long week-end in Mizzou was spent at the Wonders of the Wild, a brain child of the founder of Cabela’s, headquartered in Springfield.  My friends are volunteers and spend Monday’s shepherding guests through the indoor swamp area and around massive salt water tanks including a look at a shy octopus and beautiful coral.  Trisha is dubbed the Octopus Lady by many returning guests for her knowledge of all facts — octopus-related.  If you love aquariums, you don’t want to miss this one.

My short flight back on Monday was on time and I was back in the Fort by 6 p.m.  Even though I was fighting a bad cold, this trip was memorable in that I learned more about our history, our marine environment and the importance of staying connected to friends, both old and new.

Thank you to my Springfield hosts, Trisha (the octopus lady) and Mike.  I also appreciated all of the resilient women I learned about, from Laura Ingalls Wilder who published her first book at 65, to Rose O’Neill who grew up poor in Nebraska but at 13 won her first prize for her drawing talents and brought her family out of poverty to Bonneville, to the ladies of Springfield who shared their life journey’s with me over wine, and to my dear friends Trisha and Mike, the most resilient of all.

“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.” -Steve Goodier 

why I travel 

why I travel 

RM and I are planning several week-long trips this year with a few shorter road excursions planned in between. In fact, this week-end we are driving up to Kansas for Mother’s Day and graduation celebrations at our alma mater, the University of Kansas.

If it was up to RM, he would probably elect to stay home most of the time but part of the deal with marrying me was that we would travel especially now that we have all the resources we need.  This year, we are headed in July to San Francisco and Sonoma/Napa Valley and then Scotland in September.  And later this year we are also meeting my brother and his wife in Nashville for a pre-Thanksgiving gathering.  Why do I love to travel so much?

When I was a little girl, I would go to the airport with my mother to pick up family and friends and just stepping into the terminal got me all excited about going somewhere — just about anywhere.  My mother would whisper, don’t you just want to get on the airplane and go, go, go?  And I did feel that way.  Of course, back then, travel was much more glamorous.  We dressed up like we were going to church.  My first flight was when I was fourteen and we flew from Topeka, Kansas, to Kansas City to catch a flight to sunny California to see my grandmother and my aunt.  The first leg of the flight was a little frightening because it was on one of those little puddle jumpers but my mom and dad were so relaxed and laughing about the bumps that I soon settled into my first flight.

Mom and me

Later, when I was a junior, I flew internationally to Tokyo, Japan, and the experience changed my life.  After living in a big city for ten days with a bunch of other teenagers and then returning to the quiet, small town life of rural Kansas, I knew then that I was meant to be an urban dweller.  Living in Fort Worth is perfect for me because Fort Worth has that small town feel but with the access to a diverse, cultural mix of happenings.

My parents and grandparents often traveled by train as my grandfather worked for the Santa Fe.  My grandfather was not too keen on flying as it was competition with his company.  He wrote a story called Lawrence and Helen Hauck Try a Little Flying

Here is an excerpt from his story written in the summer of 1978 — we boarded a huge Lockheed TriStar supposed to take off at 1:00 p.m. for Orlando with noon lunch en route.    They had a passenger compartment that looked like a high school auditorium…and it was filled with people. About 20 minutes after takeoff time the captain announced over the speaker that there would be a half-hour delay while they balanced the fuel in the wing tanks which were uneven.  An hour later while we sat there he said that they still couldn’t get the fuel balanced and they decided it was the gauges, so they would install new fuel gauges.  Another hour wait.  Some of us impatient souls got off and went back to the boarding area and I asked an uniformed official if they didn’t have another plane to use…we were getting tired of sitting.  Another hour of waiting and they announced the problem was not the gauges but the left-wing tank had a leak in it and they would have to pump the fuel out and fix it.  I told Helen “Nuts to this outfit…I am a railroader and I won’t fly in any airplane that has a leaky fuel tank.” I told the gate man “Give me back my ticket.  I’ll fly with you some other time.”


lawrence and kids
The railroader with my brothers and me


We passed the love of travel onto our three girls, now all young women, who explore the world with confidence and with the same excitement transferred on to me first by my mother but really an entire family line that enjoyed adventures even when they didn’t go quite as planned. You’re welcome, girls, and thanks for the privilege of mothering each of you.  Happy Mother’s Day one and all.

Red Dirt Girl Goes to Bastrop

Red Dirt Girl Goes to Bastrop

Bastrop State Park that is. Just on the outskirts of Bastrop, Texas, near a busy crossroads with a Buc-ee’s located just outside the park entrance.  It is about 3.5 hours by car from Fort Worth,  It wasn’t exactly like living the country life but we did stay in a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cabin situated in a cluster of old cabins inside the park built back in 1934.  Most recently these cabins survived fire and flood so expect they will be around for another eighty years or more. The loblolly pines or what Texans call the lost pines didn’t fare so well but they are slowly coming back after seven years of steady growth.

Our cabin was originally built of reddish colored boulders and the inside surprised us with a wood-burning fireplace with a hand carved mantel.  The rest of the cabin was sparse but we were able to cook several meals and there was a bed with linens along with fresh towels and an indoor bathroom so we didn’t rough it much.  There is a photograph of the men who built the cabins hanging on the wall inside the cabin.  RM said the crew looked hungry as all of them in the photograph were pencil thin by today’s standards. We really need to do something about this high fructose corn syrup diet that is literally killing us.

We explored the town of Bastrop before checking into the cabin and enjoyed walking the downtown street full of tiny shops and cafes as well as a leisurely stroll along the Colorado River.  We stopped for a craft beer and free popcorn at the Bastrop Beer Company grand opening.  That night, back at the ol’ campgrounds,  we built a fire outside in the pit as well as inside in the CCC built fireplace.   RM likes to burn crap, a lot of crap.  It was a bit smokey in the cabin but the ambiance was nice and my leather purse still carries that aroma one week after the trip.

The next morning we headed into Bastrop for their regular Saturday morning farmer’s market.  It is held next to the town’s art center so after buying up some fresh fennel, spring onions and greens, we checked out the local art gallery.  We noticed lots of scenes of the area including a painting of the cool bridge that crosses over the Colorado River in Bastrop.  There is a walking path on the bridge so you can walk over if you have time.

After that, we were hungry so we headed to Smithville to check out the town where Hope Floats was filmed.  We ate at the Comfort Cafe,a donation based restaurant, that supports people who are recovering from addiction.  Whoever runs the kitchen knows how to cook high quality locally sourced food and their coffee is better than any Starbucks.  Don’t miss looking into the dessert case.

We walked around Smithville but it started to rain.  We did discover many of the buildings and the gazebo from the film but then headed back to the park for a nap and couple of hours of reading.  The weather cleared a bit so we drove inside the park to find the trail head that leads to the CCC built outlook over the park, about a 2-mile-trek up and back.

The humidity was high so it was a little sweaty but nothing like how that hike would be in the middle of summer.  Don’t do the trail when the sun is out as there is not a lot of shade but in April there were so many wildflowers everywhere we walked and nice cloud cover.  Thank you Lady Bird Johnson for the gift of wildflowers in Texas.  We made it to the top of the outlook for a pretty view out over the park and then quickly we trekked back down as a thunderstorm was headed our way.  We returned  back to the car just in time to not get drenched.  We thought about going out to dinner but the sound of the rain on the roof of the old cabin was so peaceful and we had plenty of food on hand to prepare dinner so we just stayed in by the fire.  Nice.

Just the kind of birthday week-end a Red Dirt Girl likes.

Products I Love

Products I Love

Dill pollen, hand collected and AMAZING when sprinkled on green beans, eggs or tuna salad or on the end of your finger. Pollen Ranch Spices This is not just some substitute for dried dill leaves. Rather, it’s a subtler, more nuanced version of the familiar dill, milder than the fresh herb but equally suited for many of its uses. It’s a great finishing spice for lots of dishes and reduces the call for salt.


Vanilla pure bean paste – so much more concentrated and vanilla flavor than extract and half the cost of vanilla beans without the hassle of scraping out the pod. Vanilla paste

Grab the Gold Energy bar – gluten and dairy free.  These bars are expensive so if you can’t afford the price tag or you pride yourself on being thrifty, try making your own by following this link Copy Cat Gold Bars

The smell of pinon pine incense takes me to New Mexico every time. When I smell it, my shoulders immediately relax.  The very smoky aroma upgrades your daily yoga practice Cones of Pinon

Black flats.  I live in black flats and love these from Clarks.  Almost all the shoes in my closet are Clarks Black Flats to Live in

For my clothes, I let Stitch Fix take care of me and love getting the little aqua box every month full of 4-5 items of clothing and accessories selected just for me to try on and decide either to add to my wardrobe or simply return in the postage paid mailer.  So easy, so fun, at

Johnny’s Selected Seeds is a great way to buy healthy seeds for your spring garden.  I learned about them when I took a gardening class at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT for short). Johnny’s Seeds  The seeds come in resealable packages with a plastic bag within the outside paper wrapper.  Great for storing in your refrigerator.  Order their free catalog. It is a beauty.  If you want to learn about soil biology and urban gardens check out their classes at BRIT.  They’re legit! BRIT


Happy Spring from the Red Dirt Girl.