A special birthday treat {easy brownies}

Today is my husband’s birthday and we celebrated with brownies!  Ted loves any kind of sweet.  But brownies are one of his favorites.  And since I have committed to buying very little processed foods I decided to make some from scratch.  And I must say that I will never ever buy a brownie mix again.  Ever.

cocoa, eggs, butter, & sugar

These are delicious!  And very easy to make.  Mix together some simple ingredients, bake for 20 to 30 minutes and voila, the most scrumptious brownies come out of your oven!  I think we have already finished the entire pan.

easy brownie mix

The one thing I decided to do differently is add chocolate chips instead of nuts.  They definitely added a wonderful gooeyness to the brownies that made them even better (if that’s possible!)  So if you make these, go ahead and throw some chocolate chips in there.  You deserve it!

easy brownies

Easy Brownies

2 sticks butter, softened

3/4 c. cocoa (I used Ghiradelli Unsweetened Cocoa)

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 c. sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of salt

nuts, optional (I added some semi-sweet chocolate chips instead.  Yum!)

Cream together eggs, butter, and sugar.  Mix in cocoa, flour, baking soda, vanilla, and salt.  Stir in nuts (or chocolate chips… or both!)  Pour into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (mine took closer to 25 minutes).

Enjoy!

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Something a little different for lunch today {eggplant casserole}

I don’t have a lot of vivid memories of my childhood but eating this eggplant casserole is one thing I do remember very distinctly.  I remember what it looked like.  I remember the flavor.  I even remember the smell.  I have absolutely no idea why I would remember eating this particular dish but I do.  You would think with such good memories of this eggplant casserole I would have made it for my family.  But I haven’t.  Until today.

eggplant

I got the urge to make this recipe when I saw these beautiful eggplants at the grocery store. My mom always used the dark purple eggplants in her dish but I wanted to try these.  I think they taste the same!  But it sure was enjoyable looking at these and seeing the beautiful stripes, before cutting them into chunks.

eggplant

One thing I’m not sure about is why this is called a casserole.  I always think of a casserole as something baked in the oven.  This dish is not.  It is cooked in a skillet on a stovetop. But this is how it is written on Mema’s recipe card so we’re going with it!  No matter what it is named though, this dish is really good and hearty!  I ate one bowl and was completely full.  My youngest even ate some for lunch!

eggplant casserole

One thing to note, the instructions on the recipe card are pretty vague so I made some assumptions.  One assumption was incorrect.  I talked to mom after all was said and done and found out she usually peeled the eggplant.  I did not peel mine so it stayed in bigger chunks as it cooked instead of breaking down and mixing into the dish completely.  It’s good the way I made it but you need to like eating big chunks of eggplant.  If you peel the eggplant it will break down as it cooks and mix in with the ground beef and onions much better.

Also, the recipe has no measurements.  I noted the measurements I used in parentheses below.  It’s really one of those recipes you can just throw in whatever amounts you want depending on your taste.

Eggplant Casserole

ground beef (I used 1 lb.)

onion, chopped (I used about 1/2 c.)

salt to taste

pepper to taste

garlic salt to taste

eggplant, peeled and cubed (I used 2 c. unpeeled)

rice (I used about 1 c. of wild rice, mom always used white rice, any kind will work though)

Put the eggplant in a bowl of water to soak.  Cook rice according to package directions. Brown ground beef and onion, adding salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste.  Drain fat and add back to skillet.  Drain eggplant and add to beef.  Cook just until eggplant cooks down (I added a little water, maybe about 1/2 cup total).  Add cooked rice and stir.

Enjoy!

A happy surprise on a rainy day {avocado mold}

Today was a cold and rainy kind of day.  So I did what I always do on a cold rainy day – I went into the kitchen.  I love working in the kitchen at any time but these days are the best!  

avocado

This is one of those recipes you can’t judge by the list of ingredients!  My first thought when I saw the recipe was “yay!  avocado” but then upon looking at the ingredient list I put the recipe away and thought “no way”.  But I admit that I’ve been fascinated with the recipe ever since I got it from Mema’s house a couple of years ago.  What could an avocado mold possibly taste like!?

scallions and lemons

After the avocado mold set in the fridge I tasted it and found out I just made a different version of guacamole.  It has a slight different texture (having gelatin in it and all!) but it’s very good.  I would have liked mine a bit spicier so I think a bit more hot sauce would have been nice.  And I didn’t have any pimentos on hand and I think they would have been a good addition as well.  But it will definitely be a great addition to our taco dinner tonight as it is!  Yum!

avocado mold

So, even though it’s been rainy and I’ve had to stay inside, it’s been a good day.  And I have learned a lesson too.  Don’t judge a recipe by it’s ingredients!  Just give it a go and you may be pleasantly surprised!

Avocado Mold

1 T. unflavored gelatin

1 c. cold water

2 T. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. celery salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce (or to taste)

1 c. mashed avocado (about 2 avocados)

1/2 c. sour cream

1/2 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. finely chopped green onion

1/4 c. finely chopped pimento (optional)

In a small saucepan, sprinkle unflavored gelatin over cold water and let stand 1 minute. Then stir over low heat until gelatin is completely dissolved.  Stir in lemon juice, celery salt, garlic powder, and hot pepper sauce.  In a large bowl, blend avocado and mayo until mixture is smooth.  Then blend in sour cream, gelatin, and green onions, adding pimentos if desired. Pour into a 6 inch divided mold or a 3 c. mold.  Chill until firm (check after a couple of hours).  Recipe may be doubled.