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Pear Chocolate Scones

Pear Chocolate Scones

The melancholy part of winter has arrived for me. After so many months spent in my small one bedroom apartment, working and sleeping, I feel cooped up without an escape. The weather has been frightful, with temperatures in the negative numbers and windchills even lower. Lately, though, no one bats an eye at the forecast anymore. Perhaps we are becoming one with the arctic.

On days like these I wonder what it would be like to live where winter weather doesn't mean that one needs to bundle up from head to toe to stay alive when they walk out the front door.

Pear Chocolate Scones Pear Chocolate Scones Pear Chocolate Scones

In the summer, the sun casts a golden light on the world. The feeling of the sun on the face warms the skin all the way down to the soul. In the winter, the very same sun has a sharper edge. I no longer welcome the sun as before, wishing for cloudy skies instead. The sun's light is harsh, reflecting off the white ground with a blinding intensity. The sun no longer warms, but leaves a bittersweet reminder of the summer months so far ahead and so far behind.

Oh, those winter blues...

Pear Chocolate Scones

On a snow day from school this week, I made a cup of tea and turned on the oven to bake. With the wind blowing its fiercest, I rolled up my sleeves and mixed up a warming batch of scones. Scones are simple fare and this recipe is no exception. The act of mixing together the ingredients by hand, cutting in the butter and forming the dough with my fingers and palms, have a healing effect.

The melancholy air lifts and, for a few moments, I can enjoy my creation in peace.

Pear Chocolate Scones

Pear Chocolate Scones combine subtle flavors in a breakfast treat. Ripe pears are diced up and folded into a basic scone recipe with a few chocolate chunks. The choice of pear is of little consequence—Bartlett, Bosc, or Red pears will do. When finished baking, the scones emerge flaky and ready for tasting. The scones are best enjoyed the day they are prepared.

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Double Chocolate Brownies

Double Chocolate Brownies

This elusive brownie is finally, finally a reality. I began the search for the perfect brownie a little over three years ago. Born and bred on the box mix brownie, it became my goal to find a homemade brownie to rival the rich chocolate tone and chewy texture of the powdered mix. It seemed an easy enough task at the time, but as time passed—and batch after batch didn’t meet my expectations—the challenge became more than I bargained.

There were great brownies along the way, alternating between dense and fudgy and light and cakey, but they were not the box mix brownie I so coveted. The search continued.

Double Chocolate Brownies Double Chocolate Brownies

I stumbled across this particular recipe on accident. I would like to say that, after making dozens of batches, intuition guided me here, but sometimes kitchen accidents lead to the best surprises. Playing around with my recipe for brownie cookies one tired morning, I messed up the math when doubling the recipe and realized the ratios were off halfway through. What was another failed batch? I thought, and baked up the brownies anyway. When they came out of the oven with a crackly top (something I have never been able to achieve with a brownie before), I knew that these might be something special.

I made these brownies three more times afterwards, verifying that the recipe was as consistent and delicious each and every time.

Double Chocolate Brownies

Over the course of my brownie search, I discovered the “right” ingredients to lead me to these brownies. Brown sugar is what truly gives a brownie the chewy texture you know and love—and these brownies are certainly chewy. However, it is the addition of a few tablespoons of granulated sugar which gives the brownie its crackled top. When baking, the granulated sugar forms a thin layer on the top, crystallizing and eventually cracking to give it that covered layer. Oil tends to give brownies a more “rubbery” texture versus the clean finish produced by melted butter.

In terms of the chocolate, this is where you can customize the brownie more to your taste. For a richer, less sweet brownie, use dark or bittersweet chocolate. For a sweeter brownie, use a semi-sweet or milk chocolate. The choice is all yours.

Double Chocolate Brownies

And so, dear reader, this Double Chocolate Brownie recipe is yours. The brownies are chewy, dense, and, most importantly, full of a rich chocolate flavor. As three of my taste testers separately told me, These taste like box mix brownies, only better! I hope you will feel the same. The search for the perfect brownie has finally come to a delicious end.

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Almond Date Banana Smoothie

Almond Date Banana Smoothie

It is a new year. When the calendar on the wall is replaced, my mind drifts to thoughts of resolutions and new beginnings—often whether I'd like it to or not. This time last year I shared with you how I felt I no longer needed to make a list of resolutions. I was already keeping both mind and body healthy; a list to remind me to do so felt redundant. This year, however, is quite a different story.

When I took a teaching job and moved across state lines this fall, it threw my life, my predictable patterns and routines, into disarray. Even though months have passed, I haven't been able to get the fragments back in order. I often feel like a puzzle with the outer edges intact, but missing a few pieces in the middle.

Almond Date Banana Smoothie
Almond Date Banana Smoothie

I pay for a membership to a gym I rarely attend. More often than not, it feels as though I'm paying for the privilege of guilt; a packed gym bag sits in the front seat of the car acting as a silent, but continual reminder. As my days are long and filled with the hours of a first year teacher, I find I do not often cook for pleasure anymore. When dinner rolls around, I opt for the least involved option, which is often take out or some version of plain noodles covered in a fried egg. Truthfully, I eat this type of meal half a dozen times a week, throwing nutrition out the window. I miss food, real food.

I have been working on these changes for awhile, however slow progress may feel at times. Just this afternoon I filled the refrigerator with a real, honest to goodness pork roast. Progress. It seems that when the new year slides in, we compile lists of all the things that we are doing wrong, instead of congratulating ourselves for the things that we are doing well. I, too, am guilty of this, if my prior confessions are any indication. It is noble to want to better ourselves, but I also believe that we shouldn't forget how far we've come on our journeys of self discovery. This is perhaps the most important thing we can do.

Almond Date Banana Smoothie

When I was reading quotes about the new year, I was drawn to the one I shared with you above. As a teacher, I feel that for everything I do right in the classroom, there's a misstep that follows, whether it be a genuine mistake or simply something I could have said or explained better. By the day's end, there's a dozen of these little missteps that follow me to bed, before I bury them and start anew the next morning. If I'm making mistakes, whether I'm in the kitchen inventing a new recipe or leading young minds through the field of physics, I'm learning something new. I'm trying something new.

I may not be perfect, never perfect, but I am strong and doing well. I'm making mistakes because I am putting myself out there and trying something new. While some aspects of my life may be neglected now, I'll figure it out. I always do. For your next year, I hope you make mistakes too.

Almond Date Banana Smoothie

Lately I have been craving a good smoothie, but haven't gotten around to making one until this weekend. This Almond Date Banana Smoothie is naturally sweet and has a character all its own. A frozen banana composes the base, a spoonful of almond butter adds a nutty tone, and a handful of dates gives it a rounded flavor. Small pieces of date are left in the drink, giving a nice little treat for each bite. Though this smoothie may be simple, the flavors are sophisticated and perfect for an early morning or afternoon on the go.

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