Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Know My Place. So I'm Making Brownies.



Parenting is a humbling gig. 

No matter how much prenatal prep you force on yourself, no matter how much you pore over What To Expect When You’re Expecting, no matter how much advice is offered by more experienced friends, nothing truly prepares you for that first night home from the hospital.

Is that a “tired” cry or a “hungry” cry? Or is it a “saturated Pampers” cry? Even if you’re blessed with a few hours of blissful silence, you think, “Something's wrong! The baby isn't crying!”

Right. All that studying was for naught. Get used to on-the-job-training, baby. You may flaunt advanced degrees and successfully manage more than 35 people at work, but you’re a parent now, which is an exercise in simple humility – if not downright humiliation.

Even after those baby and toddler years, kids continue to keep a parent’s ego in check. Just look at recent letters from my happy campers. When it comes to Darling Daughter and Snarky Son, humility “r” me.

DD’s letter, I’ll grant you, does pass the “well-written” test (as defined by me, click here). Among other things, she enthusiastically thanks me for a ring I sent, she praises my decision to send candy, and declares her intention to live life to the fullest while I’m spending my last days at camp. Huzzah!

But in the opening sentence, she keeps me in my place: I can’t wait to see you and kitty!
There it is. I send letters. I send e-mails. I send gifts. But I’m still on par with the cat, Lionel, who will likely draw blood from DD within minutes of her return home. (He didn’t mean to! He was just playing!)

SS, at 14, the more experienced of my two kids, isn’t nearly so subtle. In the past week or so, Mike the Mailman has now delivered three – count ‘em, three – notes from my son. (You can’t call a lone sentence of correspondence a “letter.” You can scarcely call it a “note.” And you certainly can’t say it passes the “well-written” test.)

Three, of course, wouldn’t be so bad, except that in each one he manages to incorporate the same phrase: Um, they’re forcing me to write home …

Smackdown. Back in my place.

And happily so.

Because the truth is, I’m thrilled their experience at camp this summer has been so “awesome” (a word used in nearly every letter or note). And I’ll be thrilled to have them back home at the end of this week.

To celebrate their return, I’ll serve – what else? – the beloved sausage pasta (click here for the recipe) and these sweet brownies for dessert.

I got the recipe from a friend in Charleston a few weeks back. The recipe is actually her mom’s, and she says people often tell her that they are the best brownies ever. I’d have to agree. And on their homecoming this Friday, I bet DD and SS will, as well.

Blanche’s Brownies
This recipe makes a very moist, thin, frosted brownie. My friend said to use a “big” pan, but since I didn’t have one large enough, I used a 9x12 and an 8x8.

For brownies
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
3 (1oz.) squares semi-sweet chocolate
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350, and prepare both pans well with Pam. Melt butter and chocolate in saucepan (or in microwave). Pour over sugar in a mixing bowl and combine well. With a fork, combine flour and baking powder in a measuring cup. Add flour and eggs alternately to chocolate mixture. Beat well, stir in walnuts and divide into prepared pans. Now, here’s the best line I’ve ever seen in a recipe: Brownies are done when you smell them cooking. In my oven, it was less than 20 minutes.

For icing
1/2 box confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 squares semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
milk

Melt butter and chocolate together. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add enough milk to make spread evenly. Use to frost brownies once cooled.
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