Friday, May 4, 2012

To Everything There is a Season (or Sometimes You Just Gotta Let Go!)

Last week I celebrated a birthday--perhaps "celebrated" isn't exactly the right word. (Birthdays were a whole lot more fun when I was 12!) To keep things in perspective, I try to remember what my Dad used to say, "Getting old sucks, but it sure beats the alternative!" Fortunately, I had my loving family around to help ease the transition. I cooked dinner, since that's something I love to do, and everyone else cleaned up (as anyone who knows me, or has met me, or has passed me in a crowd knows, I HATE to clean!!!!). So I had the best of both worlds. Dinner was a reasonably healthy dish; Lasagna Rollups, filled with a healthy dose of spinach, along with part skim ricotta, and Romano, Grana Padano and Asiago cheeses, covered with homemade tomato sauce--delicious! Although there is quite a bit of cheese, the spinach is predominant in the filling, and the recipe makes a lot, so it's not TOO unhealthy--under 600 calories for a very hearty 2 roll serving. (I'll post the recipe for the tomato sauce and rollups in a later post.)

But being good for dinner leaves a lot of calories leftover for dessert, always my favorite part of a meal, though I don't indulge as often as I'd like to. So I made my absolute favorite dessert, Fudgey Brownie Sundaes, made with French Vanilla ice cream, which I find to be slightly richer tasting than plain vanilla ice cream. The brownie recipe is one I clipped from a newspaper or magazine many, many years ago. My daughter made an (excellent!) change to the recipe by using Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder instead of regular cocoa powder, which makes them even more chocolatey. And this year, instead of just pouring commercial chocolate syrup over the French Vanilla ice cream, I made a dark chocolate Fudge Glaze which was slightly bitter sweet and provided an excellent counterpoint to the sweetness of the brownie and ice cream. The glaze is designed to harden on a cake, so I warmed it slightly to get it to a perfect pouring consistency before serving. Chocolate overload almost makes me forget getting a year older!!!

Fudgey Brownies
Serves: 6 chocoholics, 8 to 10 regular people
Oven Temperature: 350°

3/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup canola or other light oil, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Stir cocoa and baking soda together in mixer bowl. With flat beater, blend in 1/3 cup of the oil. Add boiling water and stir on low speed until mixture thickens. Blend in sugar, eggs and remaining 1/3 cup oil; stir until smooth. Add flour, vanilla and salt; beat until completely blended. Pour into a greased 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan or two 8" square pans or two 8" or 9" round layer pans. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes for 13" x 9" x 2" pan, or 30 to 32 minutes for square pans or layers. Cool and serve from pan.

Notes & Pointers:
You can add nuts or frosting as you choose....either (or both) would be wonderful additions.

Fudge Glaze
Serves: enough to glaze one bundt cake, or 4 servings over ice cream

5 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 Tbs. butter

In small saucepan stir together cocoa, sugar, water. Bring to boil over moderate heat. Boil 1 minute. Add butter a little at a time, stirring after each addition. While glaze is hot, pour over cooled cake, keeping most of glaze on top of cake.

Notes & Pointers:
This glaze is bittersweet and beautifully shiny on a cake if you don't refrigerate it. Here again, I prefer the Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder instead of regular cocoa powder, but either one works.

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