Savory Ham & Cheese Bread for a Late Summer Lunch

What's Going on Today: Reminiscing about vacation in Cooperstown earlier this month. Organizing daughter's fall wardrobe!
Naptime Goals: Start ironing labels into daughter's clothes. Bake loaf of Savory Ham & Cheese Bread.
Tonight's Menu: Savory Ham & Cheese Bread, Caprese Salad, White Wine.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: The fashion philosophy of a toddler: "More is more."

Leave it to my Mom to introduce me to a new bread that I want to make, and eat, every single day for the rest of my life. As some of you might know, my mother is a total Francophile. She even went so far as to ask my daughter to call her Grandmere. It didn't work - my daughter calls her something that might resemble an abbreviation - but she got her point across. There is no French lineage in the entire history of our family, but that doesn't mean we can't pretend.

Of course, the best way to pretend to be French is by eating the food. According to my Mom this savory ham and cheese bread would be the centerpiece of a French country lunch. A fresh loaf paired with a platter of fresh tomatoes and pitchers of citron presse, this would comprise a wonderfully simple summer meal. I don't know if this is true or not, I've never stayed in France for more than five days at a time, but I'll take her word for it. It certainly worked for me when we had lunch in Cooperstown.

Not only is this bread easy to bake during naptime, it really does make up the perfect snack or light summer meal. I love it's dense chewy cheesiness studded with salty ham. I found that toasting it made it taste similar to a gourmet slice of grilled cheese. It's pebbly texture is also very appealing, giving it a rustic quality befitting the style in which it should be enjoyed. I've seen breads similar to this in baskets at fancy restaurants, but I think I'll think with eating it the French way. On the back porch, for lunch, with Mom.

Savory Ham & Cheese Bread
 adapted from The New York Times
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
3 large eggs
1/3 c. whole milk
1/3 c. olive oil
6 oz. baked ham, cut into 1/4" cubes
6 oz. Gruyere, coarsely grated

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a loaf pan generously with butter.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flour with baking powder, salt and pepper.
3. In a medium bowl lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in the milk and olive oil.
4. With a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed. Fold in ham and cheese.
5. Pour batter into loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a cake test comes out with a few crumbs attached.
6. Cool loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then, turn it onto the rack and cool completely.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Serving Ideas: This bread tastes best when served warm. I am always able to give my daughter a slice to try after she wakes up from her nap. It also keeps well in the fridge when wrapped tightly.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making the batter takes about 20 minutes. Baking time is 40-50 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: This is a hit with adults and children. My daughter still seems to pick the ham out of the bread sometimes, claiming she doesn't like it, but eats it on other occasions. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.


The Ultimate Watermelon Margaritas for a Vineyard Cookout: Webisode #38

What's Going on Today: Trip to the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair, lunch on the dock.
Naptime Goals: Put chicken in bbq sauce to marinate, make peach crumble, make Watermelon Margheritas.
Tonight's Menu: Home Guacamole, Cheese & Fruit, BBQ Chicken, Cous-Cous Salad, Green Salad, Watermelon Margaritas, Peach Crumble.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: The more kids the merrier.

One of the best part's about being on Martha's Vineyard for us is catching up with friends. We chose this week especially to come out and visit because we knew our friends would be here as well. Early in the week we took an awesome boat trip with our friend Phoebe from Big Girls, Small Kitchen, (more on that soon!), and the next night our friends Adam and Kate came over with their two boys for a BBQ.

Since it's summer vacation and we're all in a relaxed mindset we put together a fun, easy menu for everyone. During naptime we put the chicken in to marinate, made the peach crisp and whipped up a pitcher of these awesome margheritas. My friend Char gave me this recipe and I knew there was no better time to give it a try. Sweet and tasty, they are the perfect refreshment for an evening in the yard with the kids.

Char's Watermelon Margaritas
2 c. cubed watermelon
1 c. tequila
1/2 c. lime juice
1/2 c. triple sec (or 1/4 c. triple sec, 1/4 c. Cointreau)
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
3 c. crushed ice

1. Puree watermelon until liquid. Strain liquid to remove extra pulp and seeds.
2. Add juice, tequila, lime juice, triple sec, sugar and ice. Mix well. Add sugar. Mix again. Serve.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Ideas: This method would work well with other kinds of fruit like strawberries or peaches.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making these takes approximately 5 minutes, the put them in the fridge until you are ready to drink them!
Naptime Reviews: This was a huge hit with the adults, the children stuck with basic watermelon pieces, which suited them just fine.


The Only Plum Torte Recipe I'll Ever Need

 What's Going on Today: Morning trip to the local market, pick up dry cleaning, romp at playground on the beach.
Naptime Goals: Accounting, finish Babble column, bake Plum Torte
Tonight's Menu: Artichoke-Rosemary Pizza, Plum Torte, Glass of Albarino
Parenting Lesson of the Day: What's worse: finger paint or marker?

I've been making this Plum Torte all month and it's finally time I told you about it. At first I wasn't going to because it is so simple. So incredibly simple that it almost didn't seem unique enough to write about. But then, after searching through my cookbooks for other plum torte recipes, I realized that it's simplicity doesn't indicate laziness of the baker, it is, in fact, the true beauty of the recipe.

Generally speaking, summer fruit desserts are at their best if the baker uses a light touch. When fruits are in season their flavors are so incredibly delicious that it's almost criminal to augment them too much with batters and heat. Instead, as with this torte, it's best when the fruit's flavor is enhanced by an easy, light batter and baked only until just softened. In this recipe the light batter is dotted with so many plums that you almost can't see the actual batter. While it bakes the fruit slowly sinks into the cake, creating little wells of plum juice on top. Each bite brings a mouthful of sweet, juicy baked plum with a hint of cinnamon and soft vanilla crumb. It's just the right amount of cake to offset the intense fruit flavor, like a little cushion for the plums to fall back on.

Baking this is quite easy during my daughter's afternoon naptime. As I noted, I've made this on a weekly basis all month. When I was in Cooperstown I sliced the torte in two and took some over to Geri. This week I took some to a neighbor on a whim. I plan on making it again next week, too. As my research showed, there really are dozens more torte recipes I have on hand that I should/could try, but I think I'll stick to this one for now.

Plum Torte
adapted from The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook by Marian Burros
1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1 t. baking powder
2 eggs
Pinch of Kosher salt
12 Plums, pitted and cut in half (Italian or purple plums are best)

1 t. cinnamon
2 T. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 9 or 10" springform pan and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs and salt and mix on low speed. Once flour is incorporated increase speed to medium and mix well.
3. Spoon the batter into the baking pan. Arrange the plum halves skin side down in the batter. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle it over the top of the plums.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cake test inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing from pan and serving.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Serving Ideas: When serving this the simpler the better. I like to serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a heft dose of whipped cream.
Naptime Stopwatch: The batter takes about 10 minutes to pull together.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter loved the baked plums more than I expected. Baking them intensifies their flavor and sweetens them up which I think got her hooked.


Babble Weekly Round-up

This week we celebrated summer tomatoes on Babble and I rounded out my summer fruit baking with some Spiced Peach Muffins!

1. Kitchen Reading: My Top 5 August Cookbooks for Food Lovers: A list of five books I'm reading this August.

2. Johnnycakes for Dinner: Exploring my new favorite breakfast-for-dinner dish, Johnnycakes.
3. Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan & Herbs for Webisode Wednesday: Remember these beauties? They deserved another look.
4. Spiced Peach Muffins: The muffins I used to bribe my neighbor to babysit our fish while we were on vacations!

5. The Simple Pleasure of Slow-Roasted Tomatoes: Perhaps the easiest tomato recipe of all time, and the most delicious.


Eggplant & Goat Cheese Bake for Summer: Webisode #37


What Going on Today: Trip to favorite Farmer's Market in Connecticut, pizza lunch at the market, ask neighbor to babysit our fish next week while we are on vacation.
Naptime Goals: Prepare Eggplant & Goat Cheese bake for dinner, finish up some blog posts, packing (again).
Tonight's Menu: Eggplant & Goat Cheese Bake with country bread, panko chicken tenders, banana bread.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Your child's growth rate will always exceed your expectations. Be prepared to buy new clothes/shoes every 6 months. Or more.

During our brief vacation interlude in Connecticut I've been catching up on house chores and farmer's markets visits. I've also been reviewing our upcoming preschool calendar (I can't believe we'll be on a school schedule soon!) and taking baby steps towards ordering my daughter some much needed fall clothes. It's been so hot this summer all she has been wearing is sundresses, but I know she'll be wearing her jeans before we know it. (Weep.) I better get her a pair that fit!

The impending move toward fall has left me scrambling to cling to any last signs of summer. The farmer's market is overflowing with produce and my daughter's afternoon naps are still long, so I am going to cook up my fresh vegetables as often as possible. Come January I'll be mourning these afternoons so very much - not the cooking part, I still be doing that - but the fresh, local vegetables will be long gone.

This week I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous eggplant at the market. Their deep aubergine is so alluring, like exotic jewels piled high in a bin, I can never pick up just one. Being that is too hot for Eggplant Parmesan I decided that do a simple eggplant bake instead. My friend Mary gave me the idea for this method earlier this summer. I made up my own recipe based on her description and have been making it with great gusto ever since. Thinly sliced eggplant is drizzled with olive oil, chopped herbs, goat cheese and tomatoes, then roasted at a high temperature and served hot for dinner. It's kind of like a ratatouille, only the vegetables remain separate instead of melting into a soft mush. I like to serve it with a little rice or pasta, but it can even be eaten straight out of the pan it's so good.

As you'll see, I prepared this during naptime the other day and popped it in the oven right before dinner. The roasting took little to no time at all. It was a perfect way to savor a few more bites of summer. How I never want to see it end!

Eggplant & Goat Cheese Bake
5-6 thin eggplants, sliced into 1/4" thick sliceds
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 - 1 1/2 c. medium sized tomatoes, chopped into 1" cubes
4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 c. basil, roughly chopped
Kosher Salt
1/2 c. olive oil (or more) for drizzling

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. 
2. In a 13x9 baking dish layer the sliced eggplants, overlapping if necessary. Drizzle a little of the olive oil over the eggplants and gently toss them to coat. Scatter the garlic over the eggplant. Then scatter the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant.
3. Crumble the goat cheese with a knife or your fingers and scatter it over the tomatoes.  Then scatter the basil on top.
4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened and the cheese is slightly melted. Serve hot.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Variations & Ideas: In this I use plain goat cheese, but herbed goat cheese would be just as delicious. Play with the herbs that you like to include as well, here I use basil and parsley, but thyme or rosemary would be fantastic.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing the Eggplant takes about 15 minutes, roasting takes 25 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter is still getting used to eggplant, she'll eat it tossed with noodles. My husband and I gobble this right down every time.


Apricot-Blueberry Cake to Pass Around Town

What's Going on Today: Catching up with old friend's on vacation, morning at the beach, long overdue laundry loads.
Naptime Goals: Make two Apricot-Blueberry Cakes for friends I haven't seen in way too long, finish (or, at least, attempt to) laundry and last chapter of awesome book.
Tonight's Menu: Going out to dinner with my family.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: When the kids you used to babysit start babysitting your own kid, you start to feel old.

I did a lot of baking two weeks ago in Cooperstown. It was so nice being at home with more helping hands. Since I didn't have to pay as much attention to things like house chores and major grocery runs, I was free to bake and cook for entire naptimes. So, like any mother who has learned to seize any free moment with the tenacity usually reserved for Target coupons or a cheap happy hour, I did just that. I think my poor mother has been stocking up her pantry ever since I left!

My friend Barbara and I were in the midst of one of our typical email correspondences the other week when she reminded me of this Rhubarb-Almond Cake. The recipe originated with her and she constantly makes it with other fruits. Without any of the favored red stalks on hand last month, she gave it a try with apricots and blueberries instead. A happy combination of bright citrus and tart berry flavors, it was a hit with her family as I was sure it would be with mine.

Since visiting Cooperstown in the summer often means reunions galore I decided to make two of these cakes. One for my family (after all, we have to sample some, don't we?) and one for the summer family I used to babysit. Making the cake is a simple one bowl affair so all I had to do was double the recipe and stir for an extra minute or two. After a scant five minutes of stirring and chopping everything was ready. They were popped in the oven while I went to change the laundry and snag ten minutes on the porch.

The cakes were gorgeous fresh out of the oven. Fragrant and golden, it was actually a little tough to part with one. In fact, I almost didn't since it turns out I didn't butter my cake pan well enough. Thankfully my good friends weren't at all perturbed when I gave it to them still in the pan, with a note asking them to return the pan when they were finished. (Next time I'll line it with parchment paper.) From the sounds of the thank you's on the other end of the phone when they called the next day, I don't think they minded the presentation one bit.

Apricot-Blueberry Cake 
adapted from Rhubarb Almond Cake

1 c. sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 t. pure almond extract
3/4 c. chopped apricots
1/2 c. fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour 9-inch cake pan if it is non-stick. If it is not non-stick line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
2. Scatter fruit evenly on the bottom of the pan and set aside.  
3. Mix first five ingredients in a large bowl until fully combined.  
4. Pour batter over fruit in the cake pan and sprinkle top lightly with sugar, this will make a nice crust.  
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Naptime Notes
Naptime Recipe Props:
I don't know if there is a simpler cake in the whole world. It is delicious everytime, no matter what fruit you use. This fall it will be great with apples, or plums!
Naptime Stopwatch: The batter of this cake takes about 5 minutes to prepare and about 40 minutes to bake.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter loves this cake and didn't flinch at the blueberries, not a favorite of hers.


Babble Weekly Round-up

What a tasty week on Babble. I am still drinking these Arnold Palmer's - they definitely the best way to celebrate August on the patio!

1. The Educated Consumer: Egg Carton Labels 101 - Do you know what all those egg labels really mean? Test your IQ.

2. Real Food Fast: In-a-Minute French Toastelette: When life hands you day-old challah, make french toast!

3. Corn on the Cob: Webisode Wednesday - Are you Team Grill or Team Boil?

4. Arnold Palmer's at Home: Tea with a Twist - My favorite summer beverage!

5. Warm Corn & Prosciutto to Impress: The easiest sophisticated corn dish you'll serve all season.


Bread & Butter Pickles with Dad: Webisode #36


What's Going on Today: Send daughter out for the morning with babysitter. Set up yearly pickling project with Dad.
Naptime Goals: Process pickles in the water bath after a whole morning spent pickling.
Tonight's Menu: Mom's cooking!
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Always save an extra pint jar for the kids to play with!

Most days I cook during naptime and have the rest of the day to go about life with a toddler. But last week in Cooperstown I deviated from this routine. Once a year my Dad and I set aside a morning to make my grandmother's famous recipe for Bread & Butter pickles. It's not exactly a difficult recipe, but pickling takes times and can't be rushed.

I set my daughter up for the morning with an awesome babysitter, Helen. Armed with ample supplies of chalk, watercolors and donut money I knew they'd be just fine. Then, my Dad and I set to work. As you'll see, making these pickles is not complicated. It just requires attention to detail - especially when operating the automatic KitchenAid chopper - and patience. We pulled together the sliced pickle mixture in about half and hour, then they had to sit for three in the ice and salt bath. (I used the 2.5 hr break in the action to take a nice long jog.) After we rinsed and drained the pickle mixture we made the brew, added the pickles and processed the jars in the waterbath.

This recipe was handed down from my grandmother and is very sentimental. Her notebook of canning instructions and recipes for family food contain many cherished memories and notes. My father remembers eating most of it as a child and I, in turn, hope my daughter will as well. Though her food wasn't terribly unique - she certainly didn't invent Bread & Butter pickles - they are things she made every year for my father and he, in turn, for us.

Grandma Pat's Bread & Butter Pickles
Makes about 8 pints
3 green peppers
6 medium yellow onions
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 peck of small cucumbers
1 c. Kosher Salt
1 bag ice
5 c. granulated sugar
3 c. cider vinegar
1 1/2 t. tumeric
1 1/2 t. celery seed
2 T. mustard seed

8 sterilized pint jars
8 sterilized lids and rims

1. Wash and rinse the cucumbers. Slice them very thin, preferably with a KitchenAid mixer attachment or a mandolin. Slice the green peppers, onions and garlic as well. Combine with cucumbers in a large container or pot. Pour in the Kosher salt and mix it well with your hands. Pour the ice on top of the cucumbers and let rest for at least 3 hours. The purpose of this is to drain the cucumbers of excessive amounts of water and help them get cool and crisp.

2. After 3 hours, pour the water out of the containers and rinse the cucumbers in clean water. Squeeze them dry in a kitchen towel or three. Set aside.

3. In a very large pot over medium heat add the sugar, vinegar, tumeric, celery seed and mustard seed. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Then, add the pickles and bring mixture to a boil. This will take a while so be patient.

4. Once water has reached a boil turn off the heat. Ladle mixture into sterilized jars, leaving 1" at the top, and close with lids and rims. Only close the jar as much as you can tighten it with your hand, do not force it. Process jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

5. Set jars aside in a cool, dry place away from any drafts and cover with kitchen towels. Allow to rest for 24 hours without moving until seal forms.


Artichoke-Lemon Pesto with Capellini for a Light Summer Dinner

What's Going on Today: Boating, grilling, napping. Quick stop by the JMcLaughlin trunk show. Ahhh, vacation.
Naptime Goals: Make an easy Artichoke-Lemon Pesto to toss with pasta for dinner, batch of Megan's Brownies.
Tonight's Menu: Grilled Chicken, Artichoke-Lemon Pesto with Capellini, brownies.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: JMcLaughlin clothes are the ultimate Mom uniform.

Ironically, today I am not writing about a seasonal recipe. Well, I guess it's seasonal in the sense that it's light and lemony, but it is not made from any farmer's market ingredients. At all. And you know what? I am not going to worry about it. I made this while I was on vacation and was in the mood for a twist on my regular pesto. My Mom has plenty of it in her freezer and I was craving something new and exciting. But something that I could make during naptime and didn't require strenuous stirring over open flames.

After spying a jar of Artichoke-Lemon Pesto in the store recently I thought it time to give it a try myself. Sometimes I'll just go ahead and buy the jar of something I want to taste, but in this case it seemed insanely overpriced. Why would I pay ten bucks for something I could make at home for two?

When my daughter went down for her nice long nap - children nap so well on vacation - I pulled out the processor and went to work. Using my regular pesto recipe as a guideline I matched portions of main ingredient (artichoke hearts) with the rest of the add-in's: pine nuts, cheese, garlic, lemon and olive oil.  A few pulses and a pinch of salt later, voila, artichoke-lemon pesto! Since I had set aside an hour for my own nap I quickly scooped the pesto into a container, rinsed out the Cuisinart and bolted for the hammock. That evening we enjoyed an easy, fun dinner, the main component of which I had pulled together in ten minutes during naptime.

Artichoke-Lemon Pesto

1 14oz can artichoke hearts, drained.
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ c. pine nuts
Zest of 1 medium lemon
Juice of 1 medium lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ c. good quality olive oil
Pinch or two of Kosher salt
1.     Add the artichoke hearts, pine nuts, lemon juice, zest, garlic and salt to a food processor fitted with a blade. Pulse about 10-12 times until the ingredients come together, but are not completely smooth.
2.     Pour the olive oil into the paste in a steady stream while pulsing until it comes together into a thick paste.
3.     Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Naptime Notes:
Naptime Serving Ideas: This pesto could be used several ways. In addition to tossing it with hot pasta, it would be wonderful spread on crostini and served as an appetizer, or used as a dip for vegetables.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making this takes 5 minutes. At the most.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter loved her pasta with the “yummy sauce” and we all devoured it. Next on my list is spreading it on crostini.


Babble Weekly Round-up

This week's round-up on Babble has been extra fun. Be sure to enter the awesome giveaway for two great cookbooks, check out some new ideas for incorporating vegetables into dessert and ways to stock your kitchen for under $10!

1. Ready, Steady, Spaghetti & Bean Appetit Giveaway - Be sure to enter this awesome giveaway!

3. Monkey Bread for Webisode Wednesday - Easily the best kind of Shake-n-Bake.

4. Caramelized Onion & Bacon Dip: Just Like Blue Smoke - A dip inspired by date night!

5. Chocolate-Zucchini Bundt Cake - My favorite way to incorporate vegetables into dessert.


Corn, Corn, Corn: Webisode #35


What's Going on Today: Spending a week in Cooperstown, trip to the farmer's market, morning at the lake.
Naptime Goals: Shuck corn for boiling, spend time in the garden reading.
Tonight's Menu: Grilled corn, grilled sausage, tomatoes with cucumbers.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Ironically, children seem to sleep better when they're on vacation.

Growing up in the heart of upstate NY corn country has made me a bit of a corn snob. I refuse to eat corn that is shrink-wrapped in the grocery store or, likewise, is sold in cans filled with wet goo. I like my ears fresh off the stalk, or not at all. For six weeks each year I eat it practically every night and still find myself wishing the season would never end. I can't remember a summer I haven't had it, and hope I never do. 

I am in Cooperstown on vacation right now and, as you'll see, I've been snapping up corn at the farmer's market left and right. The corn in this region is so sweet and tasty this year it could almost be served for dessert. There are two ways I like to cook corn and I've filmed them both here. The boiling method is easy and delivers guaranteed results. The grilling method is slightly more involved, but gives each ear a slightly smokey caramelized flavor I find irresistible.

Since many hands make light work I've been spending less time cooking dinner during my visit. Instead, my parents and I split responsibilities, each working on one portion of the meal. Corn is great to be in charge of because it barely requires any attention. Even during naptime the most work I put into it is shucking the stalks or putting them in water to soak. The rest of my free time is spent catching up with friends and family and enjoying the garden. Which is exactly what summer vacation should be.

Corn, Two Ways

Boiling Corn: Shuck the ears of corn and remove all the silk. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook for 7 minutes. Start timing the cooking AFTER the water has returned to a boil. Remove from pot with a pair of tongs and serve hot with lots of butter.

Grilling Corn: Remove silk from the tips of corn. Fill a large pot or sink basin with cool water and soak corn for 20-30 minutes. Heat a grill to medium flame. Remove the corn from the water and shake the excess water off, but don't dry it with a towel. Place wet corn on the grill and turn it occasionally for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pull off husks and serve hot with lots of butter.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Ideas: Flavored butters are delicious with corn. Alternatively, take the corn off the stalk and use it for corn salad.
Naptime Stopwatch: The boiling method takes approximately 20 minutes from start to finish (including shucking time) and the grilling method takes 40 minutes (including soaking time). 
Naptime Reviews: We like the grilling method for the added flavor, but the boiling method works beautifully on days when we don't turn on the grill.


Peppermint Patty Brownies for Fun

What's Going on Today: Errands! Library, dry cleaner, playground break (wearing a purple tutu of course.)
Naptime Goals: Laundry, Carrot Souffle, Peppermint Patty Brownies.
Tonight's Dinner: Uncle Will's Ribs, Souffle, Bread, Brownies for dessert.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Sometimes it's a good idea to let them pick out their own outfits, sometimes it's not.

I've been on a bit of a brownie kick lately. I'm not sure why, but I guess one doesn't really need an excuse to bake brownies. They are perfect in both winter and summer, served warm or chilled. On occasion I've been known to swirl in caramel, cream cheese or jam, and other times I've added espresso powder and chocolate chips. This week I decided to top them with a layer of peppermint icing. I've always loved the flavors of chocolate and mint together and this brownie is one it's best iterations.

I call these Peppermint Patty Brownies for the obvious reason, they taste just like my favorite York, only a million times better. Each bite brings with it a deep chocolate taste and icy mint chill that's decadent and refreshing all at once. I made these the other day mostly for fun. You know I like to always have a sweet nibble around the house and these brownies just happened to be what I was craving that day.
Baking the brownies during my daughter's naptime was a snap. Since they shouldn't be frosted until completely cooled, I made the peppermint and chocolate icings while the brownies were baking and kept them in the fridge until later that afternoon. The brownies had cooled by then and I frosted them while the ribs were on the grill. Thankfully my daughter was deeply involved in her doodling while I did this, lest she have spotted me and insisted on licking the spatula and ruining her dinner. I introduced them after she cleaned her plate and we all enjoyed our fun family dessert.

Peppermint Patty Brownies
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
2 t. pure vanilla extract
2 T. cocoa powder
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

For the icing:
2 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
3 T. milk
3/4 t. peppermint extract

For the chocolate topping:
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 stick (4 T.) unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together. I use the microwave, heating it in short intervals so the butter doesn't explode. Mix together until fully combined. Cool slightly.
3. Beat together eggs, vanilla, sugar and cocoa powder in a mixer until combined. Add chocolate mixer, beat until just combined.
4. Finally, add flour, baking powder and salt to the chocolate mixture and mix until the batter is totally incorporated. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the bottom of the bowl to make sure it all comes together.
5. Pour batter into butter 13x9 baking pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until knife inserted in the batter comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing.
6. To make the mint icing: whisk together confectioner's sugar, milk and mint extract until completely smooth. Spread a thin layer on top of the cooled brownies.
7. To make the chocolate topping: Melt chocolate chips and butter in a microwave until chocolate is melted. Swirl together with a wooden spoon and allow to cool slightly. Spread it on top of the mint icing. Cut brownies into squares and serve.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Serving Ideas: Since chocolate-mint are often considered holiday flavors it would be fun to sprinkle these with red, white and green candies and serve them at Christmas parties. Alternatively, leave the brownies in the pan, add some candles and serve them as a birthday cake.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making the batter takes about 15 minutes. Making the icing and chocolate topping takes about 10 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: If you don't like mint these are not the brownies for you. If you do like mint, you will love these.