Happiness Project #38: The PERFECT Peanut Butter Brownies!

 

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Brownies. Let’s talk about Brownies. Brownies…perplex me. Because they’re very much like a cake yet flat, with a decisively fudgey texture. And by the way, how wonderful of a word is fudgey? It just screams summer days, languishing on the front lawn, with a scoop of half melted vanilla ice cream dripping joyfully down your fingers. Well, it does to me, anyway. Anyhow, back to the ever so elusive Brownie. I’ve been trying to create the PERFECT Brownie for well over a year now. No matter how many recipes I’ve tinkered with, nothing has just WORKED. Really? But for heavens sakes, why not, you’re wondering. The honest truth? I’m a brownie snob. In the worst way. They’re either too cake-like or too fudgey. Yet never both. And BOTH is what I want. So you can probably imagine how frustrating this year long quest of mine has been. Or ridiculous. Depending on how you see it. To make a long story short, about a month ago, I finally (FINALLY) figured it out. The PERFECT Brownie. With peanut butter, just because. And yes, I am still dancing my silly Happy-Happy-Mama Dance. Because this Brownie is THAT good. Don’t believe me? Try it. You’ll see. Ready?

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup for coating pan

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 9×11 inch baking pan. Or use a 12 cup muffin pan, like I did in the above photo. Sur La Table has a lovely 12 cup square muffin pan by Fat Daddio which you can find on their website. Evenly coat the buttered pan with 1/3 cup flour and tap out any excess (flour). Set aside.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt the chopped chocolate and butter until fully combined. Once melted, transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl and let cool slightly.

Stir the sugar and peanut butter into the melted chocolate. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon until just combined. Stir in the vanilla extract.

In another small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixer, until just combined. Pour the brownie batter into your buttered/floured pan, spreading evenly, making sure to reach into each corner.

Bake for 19-20 minutes, until a toothpick, inserted in the center of the pan, comes out clean.

Cool throughly, on a wire rack, before cutting up into 12 bars. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Or your favorite peanut butter frosting, like I did. We all know that there’s no such thing as too much chocolate with peanut butter.

And there you have it, my friends. A little bit fudgey on the inside and a little bit cakey on the outside. Perfection? I think so.

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Happiness Project #37: Baked Tuna Casserole!

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Whoa! Another Dinner Dish?! All in the same month?! Why, yes! Yes, indeed, my friends! This Mama’s on a mission! To bring some dinner to the table! And highchair. And possibly, a dog dish, as well. Though, not ALWAYS to the dog’s dish, mind you. And since, I really, REALLY like the idea of all-in-one Casserole’s for my family, I went scouring the internet and Pinterest for my next (hopefully rather) easy dinner dish. Now before you go on judging me, I am NOT ashamed to admit to being somewhat of a Pinterest nerd either. So there! Enter, the simplest version of a Tuna Casserole Recipe I could set my eyes upon. With peas. Again. Yes, we really like our peas in this house. I chalk it up to how small & Toddler friendly they are. Though, next time I may add in some fresh Broccoli too, since I didn’t happen to have any of America’s favorite veggie tree on hand last night.

Hmmm, speaking of last night, which was the 4th of July here in my neck of the woods (or more accurately, city), my kitchen ended up becoming a bit…crowded. By my very scared and horribly trembling Beagle/Terrier Canine Child, Chloe Girl. For SIX hours! SIX hours worth of loud, booming, the-sky-is-very-likely-falling neighborhood fireworks. Which I was NOT happy about it. At all. Yes, I understand that everyone wants to eat, drink and launch very pretty sparklies. But for SIX hours?? At the expense of everyone else around them, who might (just might) have sleepy babies and nervous dogs?? Until 2am?? Apparently. Like I said, by 11pm last night, I was NOT pleased. And had a very terrified Chloe Girl huddled up in the kitchen corner, pressed up against my legs. Which made using the stove a little crowded.

Anyhow, even though I was understandably half distracted by comforting my Chloe Girl as well as tinkering with this particular recipe, all while convincing myself NOT to run out into the street, welding a large knife (because I was THAT enraged by all of those inconsiderate neighbors of mine), I did eventually manage to get this Casserole in the oven. Hallelujah. Which, even today, is still being very happily consumed. So to all of my fellow Mommy & Daddy friends out there, with too much to do in the day and not enough free time spent in the kitchen, this easy, relatively all-in-one recipe might be exactly what you’re looking for! Well, besides more sleep, that is. *wink*

Pinch of kosher salt

2-1/2 cups elbow macaroni pasta

1 cup breadcrumbs (my husband prefers Panko breadcrumb so we nearly always have a couple of boxes of this laying around)

5 to 6 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons (reserved) fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 cups whole milk

3 (6 oz) cans solid light tuna, packed in water, drained and fluffed with fingertips

1-1/2 cup frozen peas or 1 cup broccoli, thawed

Once all of the ingredients are gathered and prepped, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to it’s packaged instructions. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

In another small bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, until just coated.

In a medium sized pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add in the flour and whisk to combine with the olive oil. Once combined, slowly add in the broth, followed by the milk. Whisking continuously, bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, stirring every minute or so, until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Stir in the the pasta, tuna and peas, until fully, evenly coated.

Spoon out your casserole mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish and top with the lemon tossed breadcrumb mixture. Slid this on into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the crust on top is lightly browned and bubbling.

Transfer to a wire rack before sprinkling the reserved 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over the crust. Let cool for a good 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Such a lovely, easy Dinner Dish. Perfect for any last-minute occasion. Happy Cooking, my friends!

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