Love. Oh yes, and brownies.

I find love to be, an incredibly tricky thing. I started off today, imaging all the ways that I could talk about love and its glory. Then I got into a stupid argument with my husband and realized that, yes, love can be blissful but it can also make you want to smash someones face in. (like multiple times) It brings forth a range of emotions that can only be described as catastrophic and slightly manic. Love is like taking acid. One minute everything is glitter and unicorns and the next, it’s thinking jumping off the roof is a swell idea. Is this too debbie downer? It wasn’t intended to be that way. I’m just being real. Because while I appreciate the eight million posts on social media that fool us all into thinking your life is perfect, guess what, everyone has highs and lows. Just the nature of the game. When you enter into the bond of love you are saying the following: yes we will kiss and have sex occasionally, sometimes I will crave you like a feral animal chasing dinner, but most of the time I will argue about something entirely meaningless for no reason, wear sweatpants to bed that have chinese food stains on them from eight dinners ago and at this point, I’m comfortable enough to snuggle up to you post run with no shower. (which is gross) This Valentine’s Day, Josh and I didn’t even exchange gifts. No card. No flowers. I think I murmured something slightly offensive to him this morning while pouring my coffee. After that, we put the kids on the bus and I made some brownies before work for Emma’s teachers. Which I should have done last night but just couldn’t bring myself to dirty one more dish. There wasn’t any romantic show of affection. I didn’t wake up to some grand gesture. Does this simply just happen as the years tick by? Who the fuck knows. At 6 in the morning, I don’t really give a single shit. I love him. We are in love. But sometimes, it’s not as glamorous as it looks on the big screen. Love is messy and intense. For me, Josh is the first person in my life that I have willingly sacrificed everything for without regret. I have never embraced compromise like I did when I met Josh. I had a lot of hard choices to make the first few months together. We took a lot of risks and thankfully they have paid off. The caveat to great love however, is that it can bring you up….and….take you right back down. Is it always worth it? Unequivocally, yes. I can’t tell you what my life would look like without him but I know this–it wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.

Outside of my relationship, the remains of love are scattered all over my heart. I love many things. I think love can motivate us in so many ways it’s almost inconceivable. If I love a particular food, I will travel an hour to eat it. If I love the way a piece of the world appears in a photo, I will imagine a way to go see it in real life. Sometimes it’s as simple as loving the way snowflakes fall and pulling myself out of a warm house to stand in the midst of it all. I feel love the most when I am in the kitchen and my children come in and discover something I have made for them. Their faces of sheer joy and delight are almost more than I can handle. In that moment, I am everything to them that matters in this whole world. And that memory; of that taste and my love, will hopefully linger within them for many years to come.

Take your tricky, over the top, sometimes annoying love and run with it today. It may not be cheap or easy but no doubt, it’s worth all the fuss.

Decadent Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients
5.5 oz (155 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2.5 oz (70 grams) bittersweet chocolate (62-70% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (1 & 3/4 sticks/200 grams) unsalted butter, melted
5 eggs
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Position the oven rack to the middle and preheat to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. (I lined it with parchmant paper with a little overhang, to make removal easier)

Place the unsweetened chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over (not touching) barely simmering water in a saucepan and heat, stirring continuously, until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, whisk in the melted butter until well combined and set aside to cool slightly.

Place the eggs in a mixer bowl and fit mixer with the whisk attachment. On low, slowly beat in the sugar for 1 minute, or until frothy and somewhat thick. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate mixture.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using the spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture into the egg-chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer with the spatula. (Batter will be thick)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes- but start checking at about 20 minutes. They are done when a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few wet crumbs on it. If there is still liquid batter on the tester, they need more time. If the tester comes out clean, they are cooked through and will be just cakey (not fudgy too). Let them cool for 2 hours. They are so moist, they need this time to firm up enough to cut.

blizzard days call for homemade granola parfaits

I know that everyone around me is hating this weather but I am really inspired by days like today. Standing outside this afternoon, with the wind hitting my skin; each snowflake quickly making its impression before melting away, carved out a type of happiness I didn’t know existed. Yes, it is cold but does anything else make you feel more alive? There are so many tantalizing components in winter; so many ways for our senses to be awakened. The sound of snow crunching beneath our feet, the glow of our skin as the cold creates a rosy exterior, the way it feels to step into a warm house–these are gifts given to make up for the harsh environment we often experience from November-February (and sometimes March). I also quite enjoy that on days like today, we are forced, no matter how much we kick and scream, to give up the hustle. Stay inside. Stay together. If you allow yourself to love it; today can become a coveted part of life.

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Josh and I did have to venture into work for a little while today but everything felt so relaxed. Today’s weather halts work in the construction industry so there is little for us to manage. It creates an air of anything goes and gives us a little time to play catch up. While the kids don’t always enjoy a trip to the office, we love that working for ourselves means they can come along. Before we left, I made myself some homemade granola, something I have been craving for quite some time. The brands sold in the store have so much sugar that I really can’t bear to purchase them. 1/4 cup can easily have up to 20g and at that point it’s like, why bother trying to behave? You also have to watch for ingredients like brown rice syrup and other creepy ingredients that can side track healthy habits. This took 5 minutes to whip up and was delicious on my favorite Icelandic yogurt with a side of strawberries and lots of honey from the fall harvest.

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Josh bought me a new camera for our anniversary and I’ve been tinkering with it all weekend. We were supposed to go away but an unexpected health issue caused us to cut the trip way early. None the less, it allowed for some extra time with the kids, yummy food, a calmer than usual anniversary and lovely snow days.

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Granola

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cut almonds, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3 teaspoons cinnamon (this really comes down to taste)
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup chia seeds
Optional ingredients: sunflower seeds, raisins, cranberries, flax seeds

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix everything in a bowl until well coated. Place in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Cook until golden brown, checking often and stirring every 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy.

chocolate + hazelnut sables

Today had a rough start.  I was forced into having a frank discussion this morning with my daughter that left me in tears while sitting at breakfast. Crying over my egg whites is generally not the way I like to begin my mornings but when you have an 11 year old; sometimes that is just the way it goes. We have been struggling a lot in this house lately and I’m sure Emma’s emotional response is in direct proportion to the way I handle things. I allow people to push me in my life until I get to a point where I can no longer take it and then I cut them off. This type of reaction has left me with a pile full of regrets. I’m also very good at masking my emotions. When people die, I tend to show the world that I simply moved on, when in fact, I am pulling myself apart inside trying to figure out how this person I loved is no longer in my life. One of the people I never speak of is my father, whose death was incredibly hard on me. More than I wanted to admit to myself or to those around me. But I have decided that loss doesn’t have to feel so permanent and the last few weeks I have pulled out photos of him and actually put them out for others to see. Josh, until very recently, had never even seen a picture of my father and I have tried over the course of our marriage to limit the information. Why? I don’t know. Seems silly now.

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My father was a big nut person. Pecans were his favorite but hazelnuts took a close second. The only thing he could bake in the whole world was pie. But let me tell you, his pies were life changing. The texture, the flavor, the crispy crust, the crunchy pecans, the perfectly done apples….I mean….these pies would leave you longing for more. As a child, I would dream about his pies. Thanksgiving felt more like Christmas because it meant I could have a slice of my favorite, pecan pie. The best part was, no limits. Dad’s southern roots meant that “no” wasn’t in his vocabulary when it came to food. Sometimes, at 3 in the morning, when he couldn’t sleep, I would join him for a slice of pie and we would talk about life.  He had a difficult childhood and his only hope was to make my brother and I happy. I find that broken people try the hardest but make the most mistakes. However, I have reconciled all the dust and have only happy memories of him.

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Family, is whatever road you choose to pave for yourself. There are no rules and there are very few victories. People are universally damaged and we do the best we can not to hurt one another but sometimes it’s inevitable. I think the biggest take-a-way from the past five years is when it comes to family; you must make allowances. A critical way of being won’t produce anything positive. We have to accept the faults we are born with or manifest over time and move on. After all, our time here is temporary. Love does conquer all–so let as much into your heart as you can.

I sat down and had a cup of coffee in one of Nana’s teacups and admired a picture of my father holding me during my Baptism. He was a handsome man who was filled with passion. Everything I know, everything I am and everything I will ever be is deeply rooted in his genetics. This afternoon, I am thankful for that. And, I can only hope that one day my daughter will feel the same way about me.

Now on to the recipe.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
11 tablespoons room temperature butter
1 vanilla bean
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
8 oz. melted 60% cocoa chocolate chips
ground hazelnuts and cocoa nibs to finish (totally options)

Place the sugar and the butter in a mixing bowl and beat on med-high until light and fluffy. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl. Gradually beat in the eggs on low speed until well incorporated. Gently fold in the flour, cocoa powder and ground hazelnuts with a metal spoon. (a rubber spatula will not do the trick) Do not overwork the dough as it will drastically change the resulting cookie. Working the dough only as necessary will ensure a light, crispy cookie. Bring the dough together into a ball and place in the refrigerator for one hour. Preheat oven to 325, flour the surface of your counter and roll out the dough. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 15-20 cookies and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Toss your chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat on low for 1-2 minutes, stopping often and stirring the chocolate. Do not heat until the chips are all melted. Take out when they are still a tiny bit lumpy and stir until smooth. Continue stirring an additional minute. This will protect the chocolate and prevent overeating. Dip each cookie once cooled in the melted chocolate and garnish as desired.

friday is cookie day. period.

You ever have one of those weeks when you lay out grand plans to accomplish all kinds of shit? Like Monday morning you’re in the car blasting some hood rat song that for some unfamiliar reason just gets you all kinds of riled up. Wearing your best jeans and j.crew’s modern day version of a blazer with a casual sweatshirt. (the best combo by. the. way.) You know that kind of week, coffee in hand, dreams in your mind, playlist ready, lunch in tow, gonna fuck some shit up kind of week. But then Friday comes along and you forgot all about that bender you went on Sunday when you couldn’t sleep and ordered 60+ pounds of organic flour (that really happened by the way), one of your kids end up sick, you figure out you might always hate your job a little and your jeans feel like someone shrunk them in the wash. (except deep inside you know the truth, pounds don’t lose themselves). Today’s Friday hit me like a ton of bricks. I feel radically disappointed in what I accomplished this week. (although I did run three days in a row to maximize every moment of nice weather we had) I want to get up and be all chipper every day but I have become the *worst* kind of morning person. Basically, when that alarm goes off I imagine flinging it right out the window and hitting some innocent person in the face who has the energy to be outside at that hour in the morning.

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Literally, I was so busy this week that I sustained myself solely on “kind milk” and stale walnuts I had in the car. Did not have time to get lunch one single day. Just sat in the office, sad and pathetic, staring at my computer screen, trying to troubleshoot design problems that are probably beyond my pay grade.

Yes, I suppose you could say I am feeling sorry for myself. So I made some chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t even eat one. BUT I do really enjoy Miles’ face when he walks in from school and smells fresh cookies, gets instantly delighted and proclaims that I am the best mom in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD with such enthusiasm that my heart just explodes into a million pieces. (Emma just rolls her eyes and walks away–SUCH A PEACH)

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No joke, these cookies are the bomb. Simple, easy and incredibly tasty. It’s Friday, go make some cookies!! Or a million cocktails. Either one.

“your the best momma ever” chocolate chip cookies. 

ingredients:
2 sticks of organic unsalted butter
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 organic cage free eggs
1 teaspoon raw vanilla paste
2-1/2 cups heirloom wheat “00” flour (or use unbleached all purpose, whatever floats your boat)
2 teaspoons sea salt (coarse!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

method:
Preheat oven to 375, 350 degrees if using convection. Cream together in a mix on medium-high the butter, sugar and brown sugar. Scrape down the bottom as needed. This should take no less than 3 minutes (I do 5). Beat the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl and slowly add to the butter/sugar mixture. This will require additional scraping. You really want to make sure these ingredients incorporate well. Sift the flour and baking soda into the bowl. Add the sea salt. Mix on low only until ingredients are incorporated. Add the chocolate and mix on low for 30 seconds. Scoop onto a baking sheet, should make about 14 cookies. Cook until golden on the sides and just lightly browned in the middle. About 7-9 minutes per sheet.

kid friendly (but still upscale) lunch: parmesan parsley fries + housemade chicken “nuggets”

My kids know that snow days are the bomb in this house. It usually means I have the energy to make a delightful breakfast, a savory and scrumptious lunch and something sweet to end the day. Weekdays are usually me scrambling, shoving into their mouths some frozen waffles in the morning (I know, shameful) and the most nutritious lunch I can pack in less than 3-5 minutes. Dinner time in the Morrison household is sacred so everyone knows that at around 6:30 we sit around the table and eat something delicious. But it doesn’t always feel quite as leisurely as a day so icy and cold, no one dares to venture outside.

In general, I really try to monitor what my children put into their bodies. I try to instill a philosophy that is based around substance and ingredients rather than calories or weight. We talk a lot about what is in our food, how it makes us feel and the long term gain of eating local, well sourced meat, cheese and produce. My children know to look at sugar content and assess where the sugar is coming from rather than the number itself. A lot of people ask why I bother, they’re just kids after all?? Well guys, food these days is fucking scary. Everything has high fructose corn syrup, kids are gaining weight at an uncontrollable weight and diabetes is exploding in America. I want healthful, active, happy kids. Who yes, occasionally eat brownies, processed food and other shit we all enjoy. Again, not deprivation, moderation.

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Like most children, my kids love chicken nuggets and fries. After all, it is a staple for a lot of busy families with small children and picky palettes. Sometimes, my kids get the stuff out of a package but on days like today, I make them the real thing.

Right now, there’s a fire going, a pot of coffee on and happy kids doing, I don’t know, kid shit. (they lock themselves in their rooms at this age and play board games) Winter isn’t always fun but I do love days just like this.

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Ingredients: (this fed me and the kiddos, adjust id necessary)
3 large russet potatoes, cut into strips (try and keep them equal)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley minced
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 package of organic, all natural, boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into “nugget” size
2 egg whites
1 cup italian bread crumbs

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse your potatoes in cold water until the water runs relatively clear. Dry completely on a paper towel. (don’t short cut this step) Toss on a baking sheet with the olive oil and sea salt. Spread out the fries so they are evenly distributed over the baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until they start to get golden brown. DO NOT TOUCH, flip and please try not to peak into the oven. This will cause them to stick and become a mess. Leave them be. While they are baking, toss the cut up chicken in the eggs whites and throw into a bowl with the bread crumbs. Toss to coat. Evenly distribute on a separate baking sheet. Quickly throw them in the oven. When the fries are golden brown, remove them from oven (they should easily move on the baking sheet). Toss in parsley and parmesan, serve immediately. By this point, the chicken should be golden as well. Serve with some ketchup or BBQ sauce and watch your kids come alive. (or in my case, shove your face and marvel in what a fantastic cook you are)