Cherry Brownies... and two down.

These brownies were a delicious disaster.  The problem... you could taste the cherries.  I couldn't even find them in the brownies.  Maybe it's because they're weren't enough in the recipe.  Maybe it's because they were home canned and therefor a little too squishy.  Maybe because I chopped them too small.  I think that one I might have chewed one but I'm not even sure.  So from the let's-get-all-experimental-by-using-canned-cherries-and-be-super-cool it was a grand failure.  Going by taste alone you would never know that these brownies contained cherries.

Going by taste alone though you would never classify these a failure because they were freaking delicious.  Five words:  YOU   MUST   MAKE   THIS   ICING.  There I said it.  I hate it when food bloggers do this.  'You gotta do X'.  'These are the awesomest thing ever'.  'You haven't lived until you've done x'.  'If you don't make these now you'r life is essentially void and without true meaning'.... whatever.  B.S. I say.  But this icing is amahzing.  Truly.  The icing made the brownies exceptional for me.
The brownies were made for a close family member who is not well at the moment.  He's just had surgery and is recuperating but having to deal with ongoing treatment (yup, it's that kind of thing) and with his life basically changing drastically and permanently.  He needs cheering up and he requested something sweet and homemade - which I happily made for him and then left them in the able hands of his nurse, my mother-in-law, to be doled out as she sees fit.  I had to oblige.  It's what I do.  True confession:  I kept some for myself.  It was a big pan and so I halved it.  Next true confession:  I'm contemplating making them again.

It's been 'Wanda Doing Acts of Cooking Kindness' lately and I'm feeling pretty damn good about myself just now.  I took some bread to KT and G for them to munch on whilst staying up all night with their foster newborn 'male-child'.  Brownies are off to my step-father-in-laws belly to lift his spirits.  I'm going to be making some food for my colleague and friend who just lost her father to cancer last weekend (she would have some stuff now but they're out of town for the funeral).
It's something that we've gotten out of the habit of doing and it's important.  Bringing something homespun or homemade to people who need it, when they need it.  It tells them that they are important. It tells them that eating is something that needs to be a priority even when it's not something you have the energy or desire to do.  It reminds them that eating can be an almost sacred part of our humanity and what connects us all.  We all eat.  It's nourishing.  It's community.  It's life.
You don't actually have to cook something for someone though if it's not your thing.  Make them a card.  This week I made a bristol board poster for my colleague.  All the boys at the school are signing it so that when she gets back she can read their prayers for her and her family.  The poster sucked.  I'm not a DIY kind of person but it felt good to do it and when I read what some of those boys wrote for her even  I was touched.  Whatever you can do will be so valuable and appreciated.  It's important and it's a good thing to do and it makes you feel just as special as the person receiving the stuff.  So definitely go ahead and make the icing - you'll thank me - but also think about doing something for somebody else too - you'll feel even better.

Cherry Brownies adapted from Cosmic Kitchen
makes 1 9x13 pan

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp water
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cherries (I used home canned)

Ganache Icing

1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter
7 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or higher), coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan (or use parchment or foil) and set aside.
Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, espresso powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl combine the sugar, brown sugar, melted butter and water.  Whisk until combined and kind of getting a little frothy.  Add in the eggs and whisk until a little more frothy.  Add the vanilla and whisk until combined thoroughly.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.  Add the cherries and stir just until mixed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 18 minutes (I turned my pan around half way through baking).  A cake tester may come out with some slightly wet crumbs on it but that's ok.  Let it cool.
In a double boiler add the cream and heat until little bubbles are forming on the side of the bowl.  Add the pinch of salt and stir together for a few minutes.  Using a wooden spoon or silicon whisk add the chocolate and butter and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and spreadable.
Pour over the mostly cooled brownies and spread evenly.
Feel free to add sprinkles.
Cut into squares once the ganache has cooled completely.

Root Vegetable BBQ Shepherd's Pie

Oh Damn.  Three times.  That is the number of consecutive bread posts that I have put on this blog.  There must be some sort of rule about that kind of thing.  When I realised how crazy it had gotten I decided then and there to put something here that wasn't either sweets or bread.  Jeez, we do actually eat real food.

In fact, I've somehow gone and gotten these... both a bag of turnips and a bag of rutabaga's.  I don't know what I was thinking really.  It's that damn masochistic streak rearing it's ugly head again.  I also got some stinging nettles that found their way into a baked pasta dish and something else that I can't remember right now.  But this.  Well this found it's way into my kitchen via a couple of sources.  I've made Shepherd's Pie a bajillion times or so.  I've always seasoned it up like crazy but the addition of celeriac to the mash and the cider vinegar/dijon/molasses mix really intrigued me.  I liked the results.

As a side note, I've decided to scale back my tv watching to almost nothing again.  I go through these phases where things really jazz me and then these other phases where I feel dumber just being in the same room with tv.  I'm in the later phase at the moment.  Don't get your gitch all in a knot or anything, I'm still watching tv and I'm not going to pass judgement on you for watching it all day if you want to.  I do get that sometimes you just want to sit and completely veg.   I've just scaled my viewing back to maybe 3 hours per week or so.  I'm still surfing quite a bit and am buzzed that this guy is back in action - check out his comeback debut and just tell me that it's not totally inspiring to have this guy back - I'm just choosing my shows very carefully.  I do honestly wonder why we watch anything.  There is so much absolute drivel.  Like pure drivel.  I waste so much time sitting and doing nothing that I just began to get disgusted with the lack of intelligence in the programming and with myself for spending my time with it on in my house.  I swear it makes me stupider.  I've got no tangible evidence for that claim however.  I'll let you know if I start remembering things better and using better grammar.  In the short term though I can tell you that I get a whole lot more accomplished in an afternoon and evening.  The house is a lot more peaceful too and that's worth it's weight in gold as far as I'm concerned.

Back to the Pie.  Ground Pork and I have become pretty good friends lately.  In fact, pork has generally just been changing my life... in all it's wonderful forms.  You could use beef here but if you do I might throw in a little bit of bacon or something just to add some complexity to the flavour.  Honestly, this is a dish that the kids never get tired of and I've served Shepherd's Pie to more than a few dinner guests.  It's just one of those things.  Now I've gotten the celeriac figured out, I've gotta sit down and contend with the turnip and rutabaga situation.

Root Vegetable BBQ Shepherd's Pie adapted from Good Food UK and Better Homes and Gardens

3 - 4 med/lg (about 3 cups) potatoes, thickly cubed
3 sm/med (about 3 cups) celeriac, thickly cubed
4 tbsp butter
1/4 - 1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup (generous) cheddar, shredded
1 tsp salt

1 1/2 lbs ground pork
1 med/sm onion, diced
2 lg carrots, thickly diced
2 lg parsnips, thickly diced
2 cups mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 bouillion cube
3 tbsp Worcestershire
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp dijon
3 tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper sauce (optional)
2 cups green beans or green peas (I used frozen stuff from last years garden)

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes and celeriac.  Boil together for about 15 minutes or until the celeriac is fully softened.  Drain the water off the veggies.  Add the butter and the milk.  Mash the potatoes - I used a potato masher but if you would like to used a food mill or a potato ricer that's quite fine.  Once they are mashed sufficiently to your taste then add in the cheddar and the salt.  Mix together and set aside - the cheese will melt in nicely.
In the meantime.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Have a large casserole dish ready.
Heat a lot pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add in about 2 - 3 tbsp of oil or lard.  Turn the heat down just slightly and add in the onion, carrots and parsnip.  Cook together for about 4 minutes.  Add in the ground pork and cook together another 3 - 4 minutes or until the ground pork is just browned.  Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until the parsnip and carrots are reasonably softened.
Add the ketchup, bouillion cube, Worcestershire, cider vinegar, dijon and molasses.  Stir and cook together for another 5 minutes turning down the heat a little more if needed.   Add in the salt and the pepper sauce.  Check the taste and adjust if needed.
Pour the pork mixture into the baking dish.
Cover with the green beans or green peas (or a mixture).
Cover the entire thing by scooping the mashed potatoes over the top.  Spread the potato out evenly.  Sprinkle a little more cheddar over the top and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the top is golden the sides are bubbling.
Let it set for about 12 minutes before serving.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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