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.

canna
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.

fig
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.

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

Slalom

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.