This week many people will be making a self-improvement list for 2010.
But I won't be making any resolutions for 2010.
As did many other people, I have found this year to be filled with turmoil.
In fact, it seemed like the entire year was one long resolution -- I resolve to get through 2009!
This week I find myself thinking about things that I don't want to change -- things that bring me comfort and joy.
I came to this realization as I prepared my menu for a New Year's Eve supper with a few friends.
Normally, I can't wait to try out new recipes -- especially desserts.
But this year I find myself making a shopping list for dishes like beef stew, biscuits and chocolate cake.
Comfort and Joy.
I also find myself pulling out my brownie recipe more and more -- especially this week.
I have made it so many times I can make this recipe with my eyes shut and my wooden spoon tied behind my back.
I like to call them Boyfriend Brownies.
Brownies are often the first sweet a girl makes for her sweetie.
Growing up, I used the recipe on the back of the Hershey Chocolate tin. Yes, it was still made of metal then. And the lid wasn't plastic but a metal oval. When I was really little, my mom would give me the empty tin to use as a piggy bank. The coins made a very satisfying clink as they hit the bottom of the tin.
Later, I baked brownies using Katherine Hepburn's brownie recipe after reading the essay about it by the writer who died much too young, Laurie Colwin. Colwin wrote about this recipe in her collection of essays, More Home Cooking.
If you love brownies, you have strong opinions on what you think makes a perfect brownie. Some love nuts or other additions to their batter, some use gourmet chocolate and some prefer brownies with a cake or fudge-like texture.
I still prefer to use Hershey's cocoa powder and I like them plain -- no additions.
And as Colwin best described it in her essay, "I myself like brownies that are what I call slumped and the English call squidgy, which means slightly undercooked but not quite runny in the center."
These days I use a recipe my mother-in-law gave me more than 20 years ago. I still have the chocolate stained slip of paper she wrote it on during a long ago visit. I bake them quite a bit less than my mother-in-law specifies so that they are "slumped."
I can have them mixed and out of the oven in 20 minutes. As soon as I hear a few teenagers come through the door, I start melting the butter.
They are great eaten right out of the pan but can also be dressed up with powdered sugar and a fancy platter. I also might serve them with caramel sauce and bit of ice cream on the side.
But the best part of this recipe is that it makes a great back up plan. There has been more than one fancy dessert gone astray where I've quickly mixed up a batch and served them to my unsuspecting guests.
Comfort and Joy indeed!
Adapted from a recipe by Marrianne Scotten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
3 Tablespoons of cocoa
Remove from heat and add
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of flour (spoon and sweep)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pour into 8-inch round or square pan
Bake for 18-20 minutes.