September 10-11, 2011
This weekend, we used Paint, Pencil, and Chalk to transform the front porch floor into a virtual blackboard and to begin the design work for a logo to use on all of our canned goods. We also baked Block Party Brownies for a Saturday night street party and Go Big or Go Home Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for our weekly lunchbox treat.
Paint, Pencil, and Chalk
Our porch floor has long been in need of a makeover. The cracked evergreen paint is on its way out. And, I’ve been dying to paint it black, not so much so as to have a sleek,crisp exterior look (I mean, how long will that last?), as to have a giant blackboard for chalk drawings, chess boards, and long divison. (Think Summer of Funner 2012!)
This weekend, I finally got down to business. On Friday night, while the kids were decompressing with papa on the couch after their first week of school, I did all of the necessary prep work, i.e. furniture removal, sweeping, mopping, securing loose steps with a few wood screws, and electric sanding. Turns out I’m a natural with the hand-held sander! This way, I was able to get up at “o’dark-hundred” on Saturday morning and get to work. The morning was clear and cool, and the hardware-store brand 2-in-1 primer and paint I chose made for an easy, economical job. I finished two coats before lunch!
Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, the kids spent some time making pencil sketches for the logos that we would like to use to label our canned goods and our holiday baking. (See The Day in Condiments for some of our culinary wizardry). When we were shopping for school supplies, we found some circular, linen-coloured Avery labels that are just the right size for the standard lids of our canning jars. Yippee! And the kids wanted to leave their fingerprint on them, so to speak. Here are a few of their sketches so far….I call them Horse and Dillo.
We’ll likely get back to this canning-label task next weekend. Although, I think that the next stage of sketching for our logos will have to take place on this all-too tidy porch, and in brightly coloured chalk!
On Saturday night, we went to our annual summer block party. I had heard through the grapevine that the local Steam Whistle Brewery truck would be stopping over with a birthday keg for one of our hosts. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything more perfect than a chewy chocolate chip-filled brownie to complement an ice cold Steam Whistle. (The kids adore the brownies, too.) Here’s our adaptation of a recent Cook’s Illustrated recipe (March/April 2010) which we’ve altered to our taste (less oil and less fuss about the chips and the cooling process) and re-christened the Block Party Brownie.
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 additional egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or a mix of semi-sweet, white, &/0r butterscotch chips)
- Preheat oven to 350 with the rack in the lowest position
- Line a 9×13 pan with two layers of tin foil, with one set of long edges hanging out over the 9-in sides so that you can easily remove the brownie from the pan
- Spray foil lined pan with baking spray
- Whisk cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth
- Add chopped unsweetened chocolate until melted and smooth
- Add melted butter, oil, eggs and egg yolks and whisk again
- Whisk in sugar and vanilla
- Using a spatula, add flour and salt to this bowl of chocolate glory
- Add chips and fold gently
- Pour batter evenly into pan
- Bake for 35 minutes or until knife comes out relatively clean – don’t be fooled by the melting chips!
- Lift the brownie from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
- [Optional: with a long knife, remove the crispy 1/4 inch around the edge and reserve for ice cream topping or toasting as biscotti. I think I must be the only person in the world who does not like crispy edges on a chewy brownie…but who knows?]
- Slice brownie into squares.
Packed: Go Big or Go Home Cookies
I’m not a very patient baker. I’d much rather make a sheet cookie or a plate of bars than deal with the hassle of preparing and baking dozens of batches of drop cookies. And with kids “helping,” the desire to reach the finish-line goes into hyperdrive…Still, you can’t beat the taste of a good drop cookie. So, this week, we thought we’d supersize the simple oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe I had long-ago written down on a scrap of paper – likely cribbed from one of my mother-in-law’s cookbooks. Here’s what we’re packing in our lunches this week…
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
- Heat oven to 375.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth.
- Add sugars, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon, beating until combined.
- Beat in eggs and vanilla.
- Beat in flour
- Beat or stir in rolled oats.
- Drop dough with a giant spoon onto parchment lined baking sheets. The portion should be somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball. Flatten the ball out a bit with the back of the spoon.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges are a lovely golden colour.
- Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.