Fudge-y Cocoa Brownies

“A party without cake is just a meeting” -Julia Childsquare

I just realized recently that there are ZERO brownie recipes on this blog, which is upsetting in like, 13 different ways. Why would I never share a recipe for brownies? Why would I be holding out? If you had asked me a week ago, I would have sworn up and down that there were at least three. This is, in fact, the very first one.

photo 2Let’s just square up about this whole cocoa thing before I go any further. I don’t generally think that brownies made with just cocoa and not actual chocolate are very good–they tend to be dry, cakey, and sort of flavorless. However, I stand corrected (thanks to Deb of Smitten Kitchen) once again: these brownies have only cocoa and almost no other ingredients and they still kick ass.

Processed with VSCOcam with s1 presetThat’s partly because of the fancy Dutch-processed cocoa powder that I used, but not entirely. I know, I know, I can hear you over there gagging and saying, “Ugh, what the H is dutch-processed cocoa powder and why do I care at all??!” so just calm down, I’ll explain. I just recently learned about regular cocoa vs. Dutch-processed, and it’s cool stuff to know, but you can use either for this recipe, so don’t rush out on a crazy-ingredient hunt or anything.

(Get ready–I’m gonna throw you some science. In a nutshell, Dutch-processed cocoa powder is treated to remove the acids that are naturally found in cocoa beans. Therefore, when you’re baking, you would probably want to use baking powder with Dutch-processed cocoa rather than baking soda. Regular cocoa powder still has acid in it, so baking soda is a better partner because it is a base rather than an acid! It’s all about balance.) Fun fact: this is all easy for me to remember because I KNOW that baking soda is a base and not an acid because my Dad always drinks baking soda and water to cure heartburn (AKA Arm & Hammer Slammers).

photo 4For these brownies, just a few ingredients come together to make fudge-y, chocolate-y goodness.

Fudge-y Cocoa Brownies
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
{Print Recipe}

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and any exposed sides of the pan.

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, add the cocoa, sugar, butter, and salt. Stir with a silicone spatula until everything is melted and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the heat and let it begin to cool.  Then, add the two eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, stirring between each new addition. Last, add the flour and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, put in in the oven on a middle rack, and let the brownies bake for 25-30 minutes. They’re ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out with just a couple of crumbs hanging on.

These puppies are rich, so I cut them into small squares (I got 25 out of the 8×8 pan). Dust with powdered sugar. They’ll keep in an airtight container for about a week!

New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Peas & Collards


I have this weird habit of writing down quotes from books or famous people or random not famous people and then sticking them up on walls, to the refrigerator, my computer at work, inside of books, and anywhere else that I can stick tape to. I believe in the power of words, and I like to read and re-read the things that have touched me. So instead of sharing my accomplishments from 2013 or my resolutions for 2014, I’m going to share some of the notes that I scribbled to myself this year.

“Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort. My faith demands–this is not optional–my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
-Jimmy Carter

“I will not forget you, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”
-Isaiah 49:15-16

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world”
-Mahatma Ghandi

On colored Christmas lights:
“It’s fun. It’s festive. It says go ahead, have too many cups of spiked hot chocolate and wear that Santa hat, we’re all friends here.”

“Just remember, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”
-It’s a Wonderful Life

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“There are friends who pretend to be friends, and then there are friends who stick closer than a brother.”
-Proverbs 18:24 (I have a Bible that my grandmother’s best friend gave to her, and on the inside cover, she wrote “To Sue, Love Connie. Proverbs 18:24”)

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
-Albus Dumbledore

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
-Theodore Roosevelt, via Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly

“If you are careful,’ Garp wrote, ‘if you use good ingredients, and you don’t take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane.”
-John Irving, The World According to Garp

“May you grow up to be righteous/
May you grow up to be true/
May you always know the truth/
And see the lights surrounding you/
May you always be courageous/
Stand upright and be strong/
May you stay forever young”
-Bob Dylan, Forever Young

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “Well, if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

“She stood in the storm, and when it did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.”
-Elizabeth Edwards


Now, go out to the store and buy some collards and black-eyed peas so that you can eat them on New Year’s Day. It’s good luck!

Here’s a recipe (of sorts)
2 bunches collards
Dry or fresh black-eyed peas
Some kind of fatty pork product (I use bacon because it doesn’t gross me out.)
1 medium onion, diced
2 32-oz boxes of chicken or vegetable broth (or one recipe of  “Homemade” Stock)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cooked brown rice enough for everyone

If your beans are dry, soak them tonight so that they’re ready tomorrow morning. If they’re fresh, don’t do anything!

To prep the collards, wash, wash, wash them (they’re gritty), remove the ribs in the middle of each leaf, and tear them into 1-2 inch pieces.

In 2 large, heavy bottomed pots, brown the bacon or other porky-product (fatback, etc.) If you have a ham hock, skip this step and just put it in with the broth later. When the bacon is browned in the first pot, add the collards and 1 box of broth. Add more water to cover the leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours. Taste the liquid after about a half hour and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain to serve.

In the second pot, add the diced onion and sautee until translucent. Add the black-eyed peas, broth and water as needed. Bring to a boil, season to taste, and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the beans are soft.

Serve black-eyed peas and collards over rice and with chow-chow if you have any. The folded collard leaves are supposed to look like money!


Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and meaningful 2014!

“Homemade” Stock

photo 1

It’s back to business time. Resolutions time. There’s New Year’s to think about, and then come January and February. In order to make them a little easier, I like to spend the coldest months of the year with big pots of good smelling things simmering on the stove, winter root vegetables roasting in a hot oven, and big sweaters tucked under an apron.


In order to make the most of the soups, melty greens, and sauces of the season, I like to cheat a little. Everyone knows that homemade stock and broth would really be the best, but who has time for all that? I’m notorious for stashing vegetable ends, chicken carcasses, and pan drippings in the freezer for future stocks; I’m not as good at actually making them. (Side note: check OUT the fancy new knife that Jason gave me for Christmas–it’s great, right!?)

photo 5

This is the solution! It’s easier and faster than making a stock from scratch, but you get all of the same delicious depth and control of salt content as you would with a homemade stock. The key is the boxed or canned broth that you start with. I like Kitchen Basics Unsalted Vegetable or Chicken stock for this, but really any unsalted or low-sodium broth or stock will be fine.

photo 4

To the boxed broth, I add dry white wine, carrots, onion, celery, canned tomatoes, garlic, a few whole cloves, bay leaves, basil,  kosher salt & pepper. After simmering for a half hour or so, you’ll have a stock that’s as close to homemade as you could hope for.


“Homemade” Stock*:
{Print Recipe}

2 32-ounce boxes either chicken or vegetable broth, preferably unsalted or low sodium
1/2 cup dry white wine (cheap sauvignon blanc) fun fact: did you know that mason jars have milliliter measurements on them? A cup is about 250 ml, so use that as a guide. This is for rough measuring–never bake this way.
1 whole carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped, including leaves
2 small to medium onions, roughly chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2 canned whole tomatoes
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves, broken
1 teaspoon dry basil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl and let cool. Store in a jar in the refrigerator or the freezer, and use as normal.

The stock will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and the freezer for several months. Enjoy!


* The images in this post are for a single-batch (1/2 of everything), but I think that it’s always worth it to double this one.

Holiday Recap

I kind of skipped Christmas here. Is that bad? I think sometimes it’s better to just do the thing rather than try to do it while also capturing it. This year, I just did Christmas. Jason and I only had a few days off, and we spent them with Jason’s family and mine. We opened presents, watched Christmas Vacation, ate way too much of everything, drank good beers, and spent time with the people that we care about. I’ve gathered a weird collection of pictures that I think actually capture it all pretty well.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

It all started with a wildly successful Friendsgiving for 25 people.
Processed with VSCOcam with t2 presetI wrote what seems like a million Christmas cards for work.
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetThen it was real Thanksgiving, and I cooked with my Mom at her house.
Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetPost-Thanksgiving nap.
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetScarf Beagle
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWe brought some oysters back from the beach.
Processed with VSCOcam with x5 presetRight before Christmas, Mona fell through the railings off the third floor porch at my mom’s house, landed in a palm tree, then fell from there to the ground. Other than a cut on her head, she was totally fine, which further proves that she’s actually going to outlive us all.
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetChristmas lights!
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetShopping for a holiday cocktail dress…wearing Christmas socks
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetJason got some new digs, too!
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetThen we went to Alabama for our good friends Elisa & Wil’s engagement party.
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetBaking cookies
Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetPresents wrapped and ready
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetPersimmons!
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetCinnamon Raisin Swirl bread
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetWinter sunset!
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetBaking Habitat cookies for coworkers…
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetAnd marshmallows for friends & family. (There are peppermint)
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetAnd these were plain pink ones.
Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetMerry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Grilled Peaches with Bourbon Hard Sauce


Grilling fruit might be the best idea ever. Even competing with winners like sliced bread, electricity, and indoor plumbing, I think grilled fruit is a frontrunner. It’s almost like super low-maintenance pie–no crust, no oven, no fuss. Just split a peach, take out the pit, and toss it on the grill face down. In a couple of minutes, you have a warm, juicy dessert with a hint of smokiness. That’s really all there is to it!

To make a grilled peach really extra special, I made some hard sauce to go with. I ran across hard sauce in England (that and clotted cream, OMG) and have never really known what was in it. Turns out, it’s really just butter and sugar, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised it’s so good. For the peaches, I added a splash of bourbon to go with the smoky grilled flavor of the peaches.


DSC_1189To grill the peaches, wait until you’ve cooked everything else, and the grill is cooling down. (My grill was sort of too hot when I made these, but I couldn’t wait!) Brush a teeny bit of olive oil on the cut size of the peach, and put the same side face-down on the grate. It should only take a couple of minutes, so watch carefully.

Bourbon Hard Sauce:
(from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook)

1/4 stick salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
splash of bourbon (or vanilla extract)

Using a fork, mix everything together.

Drop a little dollop of hard sauce on each peach. Enjoy!

(Photo credits to Ryan Mayette)

grapefruit gin spritzer (& a new name!)

DSC_0315Did you notice that things are a little different? I haven’t mentioned it here, but I’ve been unhappy with the name of my blog for a while now. I love it–don’t get me wrong–but serenditpitousanna (dot) com isn’t exactly a memorable url, you know? As of today, I’m abushelandapeckblog (dot) com, and I’m thrilled about it! Along with the name change comes a slight change of focus as well. I’ve tried several different things here on my blog, but none of them has made me as happy as the food–the recipes, the photos, the stories that I can tell alongside a meal. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like y’all like that a lot, too.

DSC_0307So this drink is a celebratory one. Here at a bushel and a peck, I’m going to be more serious about the food. I’m buzzing with ideas, and I can’t wait to try them all. I think part of that is the fact that it’s summertime, and it’s light out at 8pm, and I can shoot photos at all hours. But it’s bigger than that. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done here (not all of it, but some) and I can’t wait to do more. That means that my book posts are done for now. I’m going to keep a running list under “What I’m Reading,” so check there in the future. I really do hope that you’re all excited about the change!

DSC_0313Okay, about this cocktail. Well, first, about these glasses. A few months ago, I went out for dinner at a really great new place in Durham, called Pizzeria Toro. The pizza was great, but more importantly (not really), they served their beer in these amazingglasses. I don’t really know what it is about them, but they’re simple, light, unobtrusive handblown glass in the perfect size. It’s like your drink can just be your drink and not worry about the cup it’s in. I totally fell in love with them, and asked who made them, and gushed and gushed about them. Turns out, they’re made by a company called Luigi Bormioli, which I looked up as soon as I got home. You can order glasses from them in boxes of 6, and they’re not that expensive, but they are backordered. Indefinitely. I was bummed, but unsurprised. I moved on.

DSC_0319Then, in a stroke of pure luck, I stopped by West Elm a few weeks later, looking for a cake plate. I stopped idly by the sale section and spotted a glass that looked familiar. I realized a few seconds later that it was the same glass from Pizzeria Toro, and that they only cost $1.95. I bought the only three left. I’ve since discovered that they’re the best glasses in the world. They can do water, smoothies, beer, cocktails, and even wine! I’m totally obsessed and can’t believe I ever drank out of other glasses.

DSC_0320This cocktail is the perfect summery one to drink out of the perfect glass. It’s a balance of acid and sweetness, and I’m totally into it. I used Izzy’s grapefruit soda, but I’m sure there are other ones. It would also be good with orangeade or something similar. Very simply, it’s ice, gin, grapefruit soda, and a splash of soda water. And it will be the only thing you want to drink all summer.

1.5 ounces gin
several cubes ice
3 ounces grapefruit soda
2 ounces soda water

Pour the gin over the ice, then the sodas. Stir gently and enjoy on a warm summer evening with friends. It looks like a cute pink girly drink, but it’s not overly sweet. You’ll like it.

project 365: week ten

This week is technically last week. I did that thing where I thought I had time to do everything and then learned the hard way that I, in fact, do not always have time to do everything. A classic case of over-booking. Anyway, here I am, with my week ten pictures.
muffin Very much of my week looked like long lists and notes to myself. This, however, was a high point among the craziness. A sweet potato muffin and a cup of hot coffee. Continue reading

Book #25: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

628x471I love Barbara Kingsolver. I’ve read most of her books–excluding Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and The Prodigal Summer. This one is her most recent, and it totally holds up. The novel is set in modern Appalachia–East Tennessee, specifically. The protagonist, Dellarobia Turnbow, is a young mom who married her overgrown child-husband when she got pregnant in high school. She and her husband Cub were rushed into marriage, a home on the corner of Cub’s parent’s property, and a sheltered life in their mountain holler. At 28, Dellarobia is on her way to cheat on her husband when she sees walks into a scene she doesn’t at first understand. Continue reading

Juicing for Amateurs


Let’s talk about juicing. But before you do that thing where you’re like, “Juicing? Not for me, no thanks,” just put that away and let’s talk. Juicing is a little earthy-crunchy, sure, but it’s also delicious and really absurdly good for you. You can pack the nutrients from some real powerhouse fruits and veggies into a glass and suck it down on the way to work/school/wherever you’re going, which is pretty cool! I hear you out there with your juice concerns, but stick with me. We’re gonna talk about three different juices that I think serve three different purposes. Also, basic info: all three are best served over ice and with a straw.

DSC_0365The first juice we’re making is Beet-Carrot-Apple-Orange-Lemon. That’s one small beet, three carrots, one green apple, one peeled orange, and one meyer lemon, cut in half. This juice is rich, velvety, and really great for breakfast. It’ll keep you full until lunch, no problem. It will also make you feel really, really good. I know that sounds like juicing mumbo-jumbo-hocus-pocus, but I’m for real. It’s easier to concentrate with this juice under your belt.

There are also a lot of substitutes available here. I usually add ginger to this one (just an inch of raw, un-peeled ginger), but I didn’t have any on hand today. You could add grapefruit, other kinds of apples, or even some spinach or kale to sneak in some other veggies. Also, herbs are good for juicing, and I say mint might be nice addition to this juice.


We should stop here and talk about beet people. You either are a beet person or you’re totally not a beet person. If you are a beet person, you get it. Beets are wonderful. They’re earthy and sweet. They’re velvety and the most lovely color you’ve ever seen. I am a beet person. If you are also a beet person, you need to know about juicing beets. It’s a beet in a whole new way. A beet in a glass! Really, though, you should make this happen in your lives, beet people. (As for you non-beeters, I don’t know what to tell you.)

DSC_0368Up next, Kale-Cucumber-Apple-Lime-Parsley-Celery. This juice is a classic green juice. Vegetable-heavy with apple for sweetness, and parsley and lime to impart some flavor to otherwise water-heavy veggies like celery and cucumber. I like to drink this one after lunch during my three o’clock slump. It’s hydrating with a little extra kick of green-goodness.


The substitutions here are endless. For the greens: spinach, mixed greens, arugula, swiss chard, romaine. Consider also cilantro, fennel, or even ginger. The parsley in this juice is really nice, but if cilantro is a big thing for you, it’s perfect here, too.

DSC_0372Last one: Apple-Blueberry-Blackberry-Lime. This one is just for fun. It’s delicious mixed with seltzer water and served over ice. Due to the blackberries, this juice is a little thicker than the others, and obviously sweeter. It’s a good treat after dinner, or maybe while you cook dinner. It’s best in smaller doses (lots of sugar) and can also be made with plenty of other fruits.

DSC_0399Strawberries? Pears? Really any fruit-heavy juice is good for this kind of juice. Also, don’t try to juice a banana. It’s not a thing. I mean, have you ever seen banana juice? Take a hint. It’ll just make a gommy mess in your juicer.

Okay, last thing. Juicers are really expensive. I’m currently using my mom’s, but I totally wouldn’t be able to buy one for myself. I’d try to borrow one or find a gently used one for cheaper before you took the big leap. It’s good to know what you like before you commit. Play around with lots of different things–even things you don’t think will be good together. I’ve made plenty of mistakes–the other day I tried some grapefruit/kale concoction that was truly revolting. You’ll get the hang of how to balance fruits and vegetables, and then you’ll be unstoppable!