All of life is a foreign country.
– Jack Kerouac
A turbulent, highly emotional week. We all have them, don’t we? Where the stars simply refuse to align, when it feels as if someone is skulking in the shadows and tossing sticks and rocks in the road, along your path, to trip you up. Things are going absolutely swimmingly, everything is falling into place just beautifully, people who count are offering you lovely words and promises on silver platters, roses for the plucking. Things just can’t get any better, can they? You have been waiting years and years for things to happen in just this way and then…. Oooh you have one of those weeks. Inexplicable, unfathomable, bewildering.
It all started out so perfectly, you say. A romantic anniversary trip with the man of your life, one son finally… um, one son moving out, a new apartment on the horizon and life was good. You were at the height of your popularity; opportunity had not only knocked but walked right in, sat down in your best armchair and made himself at home, like an old friend. A good haircut and regular exercise and you were feeling tip top.
When it rains, it pours, as the old saying goes. When everything is going smoothly and well, when we are showered with accolades, crowned with laurels, we smile in contentment and whisper to ourselves “Ah, yes, it’s about time, ain’t life grand!” We jump to the conclusion that after all of the hard times that life has laid at our doorstep, after all the troubles and tears, our reward has finally come. Everything that we now are reaping is well deserved for our hard work and patience, our diligence and honesty. We smile to ourselves and slap each other contentedly on the back and congratulations all around that we have finally passed over the hump and are on smooth ground and rolling forward fast. And we gather all of the good things that begin coming our way, ticking each one off on our fingers: it’s a veritable onslaught of greatness and success and it looks like this is the beginning of the rest of our life! Bring it on!
You must learn to deal with the odd and even in life, as well as in figures.
- George Eliot, Adam Bede
And then BOOM it all comes tumbling down, crumbling around our feet fast and furious. The first little thing happens and we try and catch it quickly quickly like a flitting butterfly just out of reach. It slips through our fingers and we sigh and shrug our shoulders and think to ourselves “Oh well, everything else is going so beautifully. This is just a tiny bump in the road.” And then another thing falls and a third and so on and so forth and when it rains, it pours. What happened? Just when it was going all so perfectly! “No! No! No!” we scream! “This can’t be happening to me! Not now! Not when everything that I’ve built up was just starting to work! Not when everyone was so happy!”
Any fool can have bad luck; the art consists in knowing how to exploit it.
– Frank Wedekind
Oh well. What can we do? We take a huge breath, dig in our heels and come to the decision that we won’t cave in. Nope. Won’t give in. We’ll put up a fight, right? We hold court, discuss with family and friends, plan our war strategy and yell “No more Mr. Nice Guy!” Things may all happen at once; it may seem as if our world is falling down around us, but we have stopped accepting what we once considered the inevitable. Our little dog ends up in hospital, the apartment owner is pushing us around and not keeping to his word or his promises, editors change, the summer holiday is rained out and, well, you get the picture, but don’t worry. Things will all turn out for the best. They will. I promise.
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on.
– Robert Frost
And what better way to soothe our souls and lift up our spirits than something dense and gooey and oh-so chocolaty? Add to that a thick, rich dark chocolate ganache frosting and you can curl up on the sofa in front of a good archeology documentary or a trashy reality show and thank your lucky stars that you are surrounded by people you love. And who love you back! Son is settling in his apartment only coming home to do a load of laundry and drag out another sack or two of stuff. And meanwhile he is working in the neighboring town redesigning the waterfront. And young son, no, he’s not found a summer job and doesn’t much seem like he’s really looking for one; but meanwhile he and his year’s experience of construction and renovation in New Orleans are lined up to help us with apartment renovations. And two of his friends have even volunteered to work alongside of him, the only payment they ask are regular meals and dessert. Marty was rushed to the hospital but has made it through surgery just fine and will be home in just a few days.
This is yet another recipe from my Taste of Home Baking cookbook which I love. Taste of Home, generous sponsors of From Plate to Page, test all recipes so one can be assured that each delicious, homey, comforting recipe really works. This wonderful frosted cake bar – in the book they are called brownies – is better than a brownie, dense and moist, almost chewy, so full of chocolate flavor which is heightened by the glossy, creamy ganache frosting. I added whole macadamia nuts, but these can be replaced by any nut, from hazelnuts to traditional walnuts or pecans to fun salted peanuts. One can also add a variety of flavors to the cake batter: cinnamon, grated orange zest, orange or coffee extract, instant espresso powder… and the list goes on. (stay tuned for an incredible series of giveaways on The Plate to Page website & blog!)
The house seems so empty. Waking up in the morning without hearing the distant rumble of dog snoring, knowing that he won’t be bounding happily into the bedroom and diving into the bed with us leaves us feeling rather lonely. We realize how important he is to the family and what a huge space he takes up in our home and our lives. We put our foot down and stood up for our rights and cancelled the apartment signing; the owner scrambled and took care of what he had to take care of and now we have a new signing date. We are now back to discussing kitchens, bathrooms and paint color. More updates as they happen.
You may have read my post about the loss of a wonderful, generous, much-loved fellow food blogger and friend Barbara of Winos & Foodies. This month's Monthly Mingle event, created by Meeta of What's For Lunch, Honey? is being hosted by Jeanne of Cook Sister! and in honor of Barbara the theme is A Taste of Yellow for Barbara. I ask each of you to participate.
I was interviewed by my friend Mark of Javelin Warrior for his series Food Fetish Friday as his Featured Foodie! Don't miss it!
BETTER THAN BROWNIES CHOCOLATE FROSTED CAKE BARS
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups (400 g) sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla
1 cup (140 g) flour
¾ cup (about 80 g) cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon, optional
1 cup nuts, whole or coarsely chopped, or more, as desired
1 ½ cups (about 200 g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or chips
2/3 cup (165 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, softened
(Here I must give the quantities in the cookbook: 2 cups chocolate chips, about 12 ounces/340 g; 1 cup/250 ml heavy whipping cream; 2 Tbs/30 g unsalted butter. I felt these quantities would give too much frosting. I also found that 12 ounces chocolate would come to much more than 2 cups. So I cut back on all ingredients.)
Prepare the Chocolate Brownie Cake Bars:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk or beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla with the last egg. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt (and a teaspoon of cinnamon, if desired) and gradually beat or stir into the batter. Fold in the nuts.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until just set in the center. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting.
Prepare the frosting by melting the chocolate with the cream in a microwave; stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the softened butter; it may look curdled and greasy but continue to stir or whisk vigorously until it turns into a very smooth, creamy, glossy frosting, just a couple of minutes.
Immediately spread evenly over the chocolate cake. Allow to set before cutting into bars.
Store in the refrigerator.