Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Uncomplicated Life

Just before I baked these brownies, I was sorting through bills, singing/chattering to myself and the dogs/smiling tensely, living on the edge in the midst of the Semi-Annual Chuckwalla Place Financial FreakOut. The organizer part of me actually enjoys it...alphabetically and chronologically ordered piles of paid/unpaid, itemized statements. The frugal side of me sees it as a challenge..."This is great, we just have to make a budget, identify unnecessary expenses, and pay ourselves a weekly allowance...oh, and while we're at it, gosh, why don't we get the gang together and put on show in the barn! Of course, Mr. Pollyanna UltraBrite is nicely balanced by the emotional me...Oh MY God, No!No!No!/We CAN'T owe THAT much!/We have to STOPSTOPSTOP!!! Thankfully, that aspect of my internal dialogue is tempered quite effectively by modern pharmacology and yet another part of my psyche, and I'm not really sure what to call it, but Minimalist Me will cover it for now.

We do not live extravagantly...yes, we have a nice house and cell phones and cable TV and hair gel, iPods and a battery operated wine bottle opener...but, on the flip side, we very rarely go out to eat, we no longer drink wine, the occasional new shirt is purchased at Target, and I cut Nik's hair myself. But during Financial FreakOut, when Minimalist Me surfaces, I go all Little-House-On-The-Prairie: I try to deny the existence of the 21st century by encouraging Nik to get rid of portable electronics (for most of which there is a monthly charge), I suggest we start eating oatmeal or similar cheap gruels for dinner at least twice a week, I lace up my boots and sign up to work as many extra hours as I will get paid for, and I promote the throwing out of leftovers to a cardinal sin. But I know/I realize that the fiscal change that results is just that, spare change, and is worth much less than the psychological boost that I get from thinking that we are living on the frugal side.

A childhood friend recently contacted me and mused about the naivete we all enjoyed/suffered in junior high school, when we thought life was complicated. I found her comment interesting, because I'm not sure I thought life was complicated at the time, unless angst and acne are thought of as complications, but rather I think I felt I was lost and was patiently waiting to either be found or to find it...and all without a clue as to what was missing. And really, when I step away from the coffee table covered with piles of financial nightmare, I am able to say that I don't think that our life is complicated even now...there are inconveniences, occasional worries, a mess or two to clean up (real and imagined), and, of course, there is the not enough of this/too much of that dichotomy, but those aren't complications...those are part of it. But on a daily basis, it is just us, two people without a great deal of baggage, four dogs for levity and love, a pool to jump in when things get hot, and more than enough air to breathe.

We also have three tortoises...Pepe, Fester and Roy. They eat, they dig holes, they pee and poop, sometimes they get horny, and when it gets too hot or too cold they sleep. They are the Minimalist Trio. Uncomplicated. And they live for a very long time...hmmm.

So I made Turtle Brownies...not because they are uncomplicated (though they aren't terribly tricky either), but to honor our prehistoric three. Fudgy brownies, chocolate-caramel-pecan topping - and I had all the ingredients already, so these brownies did not further contribute to the economic crisis in Critterland. Try them...and relax.

Butter............................6 oz
Bittersweet Chocolate.......16 oz
AP Flour........................3/4 cup
Brown Sugar....................2 cups
Salt..............................1/2 tsp
Vanilla Ex.......................1 tsp
Espresso Powder..............1/2 tsp
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Melt butter and chocolate in bowl over simmering water. Set aside to cool.
3. Whip eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and espresso powder for 4-5 minutes until thick, pale and forms a ribbon.
4. Gently but quickly fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs.
5. Fold the sifted flour into the batter just until incorporated.
6. Pour into a 9x13 pan, smooth top, bake for 30 minutes, until top/center is set, soft, and slightly cracked.

(I made several major mistakes when trying to make the caramel topping for the Turtle part of the Turtle Brownies. In the end I made a milk chocolate ganache, mixed in toasted pecans, and spread it on the brownies. Not really a true turtle brownie, but delicious all the same. I shall return at a future time to the caramel topping.)

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